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Disciplinary Actions - Selecting the Appropriate Penalty


Conduct problems involve the breaking of a rule, regulation, policy or direction. Although not completely avoidable, taking the time to care and communicate with an employee can help in preventing conduct problems. Also, take time to reward or correct an employee when needed. Discipline is meant to correct an employee’s conduct while maintaining high productivity, discipline, and morale among all employees. When discipline becomes necessary, the goal is to impose the minimum remedy that can reasonably be expected to meet this objective.

  • Before deciding on an appropriate penalty, management has the burden of showing reasonableness of the remedy by demonstrating that appropriate consideration was given to each of the applicable factors within the 12 Douglas Factors. Some of the factors to consider when selecting a penalty:
    • Seriousness of the offense
    • Prior disciplinary record
    • Table of Offenses and Range of Remedies
    • Medical issues
    • Consistency of the action
    • Other factors
  • Disciplinary actions include:
    • Letters of Reprimand
    • Suspensions
    • Demotions
    • Removals
  • Disciplinary actions are usually progressive; however, there may be an incident of misconduct which is so serious that it warrants severe action, including removal from employment, for the first offense.
  • Remedies for offenses may vary. Greater or lesser penalties than set out in the Guideline Schedules of Offenses and Remedies may be imposed depending on mitigating or aggravating factors.
  • In considering past offenses, oral counseling sessions and written admonishments may not be counted as prior offenses in determining a remedy. These may be cited, however, to show that the employee was informed of acceptable level of conduct and performance.
  • Letters of reprimand may be counted as prior offenses provided the reckoning periods for the letters have not expired.
  • Suspensions or reduction in grade or pay for disciplinary reasons may be counted as prior offenses.
  • Disciplinary actions become a matter of record in an employee’s electronic official personnel folder (eOPF). However, Reprimands only remain in an employee’s eOPF for up to 2 years.
  • There are several useful tools that can be used in lieu of or in addition to disciplinary actions to assist you with correcting conduct problems. These tools should be considered during the early stages of conduct issues.
    • Document oral counseling.
    • Letters of counseling, cautions, warnings and letters of requirement that are not placed in the eOPF.
    • Placing the employee on a Letter of Requirement for leave abuse is an effective tool.
    • Training (team building, interpersonal skills, etc.) or closer supervision may assist in correcting misconduct.
  • Employee Assistance Program – free, confidential, counseling service provided to the employee experiencing personal problems that might impact his/her performance/conduct on the job. A bargaining unit employee covered by a Negotiated Agreement may have special requirements involving some of the tools mentioned above. Refer to the Negotiated Agreement before taking any actions.
  • The supervisor and Command Staff Advisor (CSA)/HR Specialist have different roles during this process:
    • Supervisor:
      • Contact the CSA/HR Specialist
      • Assess the situation
      • Gather facts
      • Decide what action to take
    • CSA/HR Specialist:
      • Research case law
      • Analyze case and review case file
      • Recommend range of remedies
      • Write all letters and maintain files
      • Provide advice and guidance throughout the process
  • Job relatedness is key in actions. As the supervisor, you have a right to expect good conduct, performance, and attendance. When problems in these areas arise, remember to DOCUMENT. Your actions are subject to internal and/or external review and must be supported with good documentation.