[HISTORY: Adopted by the Town Board of the Town of Albion 10-20-2008 by L.L. No. 5-2008. Amendments noted where applicable.]
The Town of Albion endorses the policy of progressive discipline. Normal steps in this process are oral warning, written warning, suspension from duty, and finally discharge. The policy of progressive discipline does not necessarily apply for a number of the more-serious violations or offenses, where immediate discharge, in line with due process, may be required.
A basic principle underlying progressive disciplinary procedures is that the supervisor must have just cause for imposing the discipline. "Just cause" means that the supervisor has the right to discipline when an employee does not comply with rules or performance standards. This excludes disciplinary action for more whim or caprice. This standard is used in judging whether the supervisor acted fairly in enforcing rules and regulations. The following questions should be answered when contemplating a disciplinary action:
Was the rule or order reasonably related to the efficient and safe operation of Town government?
What was the rule intended to accomplish?
If the rule was observed as written, would the purpose be realized?
Was the rule realistic? Easy to understand?
Was the rule out-of-date?
Can the rule, as written, be complied with under the present circumstances?
Are the penalties too light? Too severe?
Do the people operating under the rule consider the penalties as being just?
Are the penalties being enforced? If enforcement has been lax in the past, management shouldn't reverse its course and begin to crack down without first warning employees of its intent.
Do all the people affected by the rule know the rule?
Was it brought to their attention periodically?
As far as practical, do all people affected know the "why" of the rule?
Was the rule affecting groups that do not need it?
Should the rule be extended to cover groups not now affected by it?
Were certain groups allowed to violate the rule without incurring the penalties?
Was the employee adequately warned of the consequences of his/her conduct? The warning may be given orally or in printed form. An exception may be made for certain conduct, such as insubordination, drinking on the job, stealing, or using Town property, or other actions so serious that the employee is expected to know it will be punishable.
Did management investigate before administering the discipline? An investigation should be made before the decision to discipline is made.
Was the investigation fair and objective? Witnesses should be interviewed, their statements recorded and a careful investigation made to see that both sides of the story are available and fairly presented.
Did the investigation produce substantial evidence of the infraction? It is not required that the evidence be preponderant, conclusive, or "beyond reasonable doubt," except where the alleged misconduct is of such criminal or reprehensive nature as to stigmatize the employee and seriously impair his/her chances for future employment.
Are there mitigating or aggravating circumstances? Mitigating circumstances (for example, refusal to obey an order because the employee had received contrary orders from another supervisor) justify a lesser penalty. Aggravating circumstances (for example, prior violations of the same rule) justify a more-severe penalty. Some points to review when determining mitigating or aggravating circumstances include:
Prior conduct record. This refers to any formal disciplinary reprimands or suspensions. Penalties generally become more severe for each instance of misconduct.
Length of service.
Period of time since last penalty. A long period of good conduct following previous disciplinary action should be considered, since it represents the aim of corrective discipline. Disciplinary action that occurred more than two to three years previous generally is of little value determining the current level of discipline.
In contemplating the dismissal of an employee you, might want to ask yourself these questions:
Does the employee have the skills required for the job?
Is it possible that the content of his/her job has changed since originally hired?
Is his/her attitude towards the job so negative that it is not only affecting his/her performance but also that of other individuals in the group?
Have you attempted to motivate him/her to improve performance by setting mutually acceptable work objectives, observing the worker's progress, and conducting performance evaluations over short intervals?
After considering the above seven questions, the supervisor should have an indication of the seriousness of the problem and what sort of disciplinary action would be proper.
The probationary period for original appointees is generally 180 days. The minimum probationary period is eight weeks. Civil service rules require that probationary employees be advised from time to time of their status. Termination may be made for any rational reason, including doubts about the employee's capabilities. A termination notice (see Hiring Policy) must be in writing and must be given at least one week prior to the termination.
"Interrogation" means the questioning of an employee who, at the time of such questioning, appears to be a likely subject for disciplinary action. Interrogation must be done privately under the following guidelines:
No employee who is represented by a union shall be required to submit to an interrogation unless the employee is notified in advance of his/her right to have representation present.
An employee shall not be coerced, intimidated or suffer any reprisals, either directly or indirectly, as a result of exercising his/her right to representation.
The employee's statement should be carefully recorded in writing, with a copy provided to the employee and attached to any disciplinary action that may result from the situation being investigated.
Employees have a right to know what is expected of them. It is the responsibility of the department head, officer or official to communicate the Town's requirements and expectations to the employee and to help the employee in meeting these standards. When disciplinary action is required, such action should be taken on a progressive basis and should be designed to rehabilitate rather than punish the employee involved. In most cases, informal action should be attempted before initiating formal disciplinary action.
An investigation should be conducted before the decision to discipline is made. Witnesses should be interviewed and their statements recorded and carefully considered to ensure that the proposed action is appropriate.
Informal disciplinary process.
Verbal counseling. Verbal counseling is the first step in a disciplinary process and should take place privately. The supervisor should review the applicable rule or standard with the employee so she/he knows what's expected. A time frame for compliance should be established, and the consequences of failure to comply should be explained. Immediately following the meeting, the supervisor should summarize the counseling in writing and save it for future reference.
Counseling memorandum. Counseling memorandum is the second step in a disciplinary process and should take place privately. The employee must be notified of the right to union representation (when the employee is represented by a union). The supervisor should review the applicable rule or standard with the employee so she/he knows what's expected. A time frame for compliance should be established, and the consequences of failure to comply should be explained. Immediately following the meeting, the supervisor must summarize the counseling in writing. The employee must sign the counseling memorandum to acknowledge that he/she has read it. Copies must be given to the employee and placed in the employee's personnel file.
Formal disciplinary process.
Warnings. In the case of a persistent personnel problem or a serious infraction, a written warning (reprimand) may be necessary. This warning is a formal, written censure that is placed in the employee's personnel folder. A written warning should be administered in writing at a private meeting between the employee, the union steward (when the employee is represented by a union), the supervisor, and the next immediate supervisor. The warning should include the reason for the warning, what corrective action needs to be taken, and what will happen if the problem is not resolved. The employee must sign the warning to acknowledge that he/she has read it. A copy must be given to the employee, sent to the union president and the Town Supervisor and placed in the employee's personnel file.
Suspension and/or termination.
Suspension and/or termination may be required if an employee repeats an action for which a written warning has been issued or commits a major offense. These include but are not limited to:
Failure to perform his//her job.
Destruction or theft of property.
Committing unlawful acts.
Using abusive language or threatening language.
Appearing on duty in a drunken or drugged condition.
Engaging in discriminatory employment practices.
Other acts of misconduct that impact adversely upon the operation of the Town.
Except in emergencies, proposed penalties should be reviewed with the Attorney for the Town and the Town Supervisor. A suspension and/or termination should be administered in writing at a private meeting between the employee, the union steward (when the employee is represented by a union), and the department head or Town Supervisor. The notice should state the reason for the suspension and/or termination. The employee must sign the notice of suspension/termination to acknowledge that he/she has read it. Copies must be given to the employee and sent to the union president and the Town Supervisor and placed in the employee's personnel file.