Brief Guide to Progressive Discipline

Staff Discipline Process

The progressive discipline process provides a fair, consistent method of addressing unsatisfactory performance or inappropriate behavior. The following are typical Steps of Just Cause (Bureau of National Affairs(1995). Grievance Guide, Ninth Edition, Washington, DC.) to justify disciplinary action:

  1. Was the employee warned of the consequences of their action?

  2. Was the expectation reasonable, relative to the operation of the unit and the length of service?

  3. Did management fully investigate the matter before taking action?

  4. Was the investigation fair and objective?

  5. Did the investigation produce substantial evidence or proof of guilt?

  6. Were the rules, order, and penalties applied consistently and without discrimination?

  7. Was the penalty reasonably related to the seriousness of the offense and the employee's past record?

Progressive Steps

Disciplinary action will normally begin at the lowest step in the Progressive Discipline process, but may be advanced dependent upon the seriousness of the performance issue or offense. Prior to discipline, expectations for the staff member should be clearly identified in writing. At each step, the Steps of Just Cause should be addressed.

Counseling and Restatement of Expectations/Verbal Warning

Counseling by the immediate supervisor is the initial step to mentor or coach performance.

  • Meet with the staff member and affirm expectations regarding performance.
  • Discuss the performance deficit or behavioral concern.
  • Provide a timeline and resources for improvement (unless issue is misconduct, which must cease immediately).
  • State that failure to improve may lead to further discipline, up to and including termination.
  • Document for an anecdotal file.

Written Reprimand

The immediate supervisor should consult a Human Resources Representative. After an investigation, follow the procedure outlined above for the counseling process, with the exception of providing documentation to the employee in a letter of reprimand. The letter should outline previous informal efforts and the current problem. Send copies of the signed letter to the department personnel file, proper University authority, and the respective Union, if applicable.

Suspension or Equivalent*

Fully investigate the concern, followed by discussion with the employee. Summarize previous progressive discipline and the current problem, and specify the timeframe for suspension in writing. Identify further discipline and possible termination as a potential consequences for not meeting and maintaining standards for improvement. Provide copies as for the written reprimand.


Termination may be necessary when discipline is not successful in improving performance. Review the work history and record of progressive discipline with proper University authority. Schedule a final meeting with the employee and conduct a meeting at which a letter of termination is provided. If necessary, the termination notice may be sent via certified mail. Provide copies as for previous disciplinary measures.

*Salary reduction cannot be imposed on salaried staff because of performance issues. Salaried staff may only be suspended without pay for violations of written policies governing workplace conduct or for violations of state or federal laws (see the Ethics Policy in the University Operations Manual).