The County practices the concept of progressive discipline. When an employee’s conduct warrants corrective action, the supervisor/manager takes the lowest level of disciplinary action which: 1) is appropriate to the severity of the employee’s offense; and 2) is likely to result in the employee not repeating the misconduct.
Under a traditional discipline program, minor misconduct (e.g., initial instances of tardiness or absenteeism) is normally dealt with through counseling confirmed in writing. Should the misconduct be repeated, the normal progression is a letter of reprimand followed by a suspension. Further misconduct may result in a second suspension, demotion, or dismissal. Misconduct of a more serious nature may result in suspension, demotion, or dismissal on the first offense.
The Non-Punitive Discipline Program follows the same steps as a traditional program with one exception – unpaid suspensions are replaced by disciplinary letters that equate to a suspension of a specified number of days. Non-Punitive Discipline is not a lower level of discipline than a suspension, and does not include the option to suspend rather than issuing a non-punitive disciplinary letter. This provision was put into place to avoid disparate treatment (i.e. suspending one employee and issuing another employee who committed the same offense a non-punitive disciplinary letter).
The non-punitive disciplinary letter carries the same weight as a corresponding suspension. An arbitrator hearing a grievance on a subsequent offense for an employee who had previously been issued a disciplinary letter equating to a 3-day suspension must consider the employee to have been suspended for 3 days. Since non-punitive discipline carries the same weight and equates to an unpaid suspension, the burden of proof to show cause is also the same. In other words, the manager/department must be prepared to produce the same level of proof before the Civil Service Commission or an arbitrator as if the employee had been suspended.