The first step is to conduct an investigation. If you have personally observed the misconduct (e.g. an employee arrives late for work), the investigation may consist of a simple interview of the employee to get his/her side of the story. Investigations are discussed in detail in Section 8: Conducting Employee Investigations.
When minor misconduct occurs for the first time (e.g. an employee is late arriving for work), and the interview of the employee does not indicate mitigating or extenuating circumstances that would excuse the offense, verbal counseling is usually sufficient. Do not ignore the problem hoping it will correct itself. By not confronting the problem and letting the employee know it is not acceptable, you are sending a message to the employee that you are not concerned and are establishing a practice of accepting the misconduct as acceptable behavior.
If minor misconduct of this nature recurs, you will again need to interview the employee to get his/her side of the story. If there are no extenuating circumstances that excuse the employee’s behavior, you will need to counsel the employee and document that counseling discussion in the form of a memo. Please see Sample Counseling Memo for Discourtesy. In the memo, you should clearly outline the conduct that is unacceptable, stress the employee’s responsibility to correct the misconduct, and list steps you and/or the employee will take to correct the problem. For instance, you may change an employee’s work schedule or starting time to correct a tardiness or attendance problem, or may send an employee to a course to improve interpersonal skills.
You should include in the memo a statement regarding the Employee Assistance Program. Give the employee a copy of the memo, noting on your copy the date it was given to the employee and retaining a copy in your supervisory file.
If the misconduct continues to recur, contact Employee & Labor Relations. The next step is normally a Letter of Reprimand, but other action may be warranted depending on the seriousness of the infraction, the length of time since the last infraction, and other mitigating factors. You should include a statement that failure to correct the misconduct may result in disciplinary action, up to and including, termination. There is no time limit in which employees may respond to or rebut letters of reprimand. Any response or rebuttal should be associated with the copy of the reprimand in the departmental personnel file. A copy should also be forwarded to Human Resources to be filed in the employee’s Civil Service Personnel File. Please see Sample Letter of Reprimand for Discourtesy.
The memos/letters referred to above, as well as your notes of discussions with the employee, will become essential parts of the employment record if the misconduct continues and disciplinary action must be taken.