The Discipline Process

The Discipline Process

If an employee’s performance does not meet established standards, and coaching, counseling, and training have not helped to improve his or her performance, the manager may have to take corrective action in the form of progressive discipline, as a way to help improve employee performance.

 

Progressive discipline is the process of using increasingly strict steps or measures to correct a problem, after being given a reasonable opportunity for the employee to improve.  The underlying principle of sound progressive discipline is to use the least severe step necessary to correct the behavior and then increase the severity of the action if the behavior does not improve.  The goal of  progressive discipline is to alert the employee that change in behavior or performance is necessary, not to punish the employee.

What to Consider Before Taking Action
  • Be sure to thoroughly investigate the situation which is causing the issue at hand.  (Please note that in some cases, the behavior may be so critical, that immediate action may be necessary).
  • Document the process and results of your investigation.  Information to include:
    • Recording the date and/or time the incident(s) or problems(s) occurred.
    • The location of an incident or event.
    • A record of other people who may have been involved, or who witnessed the event.
    • Statements from witnesses or participants.
    • Documents or records related to the incident.
    • A record of the effect of the problem or its consequences.
    • A review of the nature and frequency of the incident/violation, and the employee's overall work record.
  • Determine if there is “just cause” to take action (e.g. Was the employee properly notified that his or her behavior was unacceptable?; Did the employee violate published policies or procedures, or previous warnings or corrective measures? Were the policies the employee did not follow reasonable and based on established goals and expectations?).
  • Based on the case and your investigation, determine the least severe action necessary to correct the situation.
  • Each performance problem is unique and must be addressed accordingly.  However, it is important that staff members in similar circumstances be treated in a similar manner.
What to Consider As You Are Taking Action
  • It is acceptable to repeat a step if you feel that it will correct the problem.  This may be the case if some time has passed since it was last necessary to address the issue and the situation has only recently reappeared.
  • Make sure all conversations on this subject with the employee are held in private, and allow sufficient time for discussion.
  • The employee must be explicitly informed of the unacceptable behavior or performance and be given specific work-related examples. It is not sufficient to assume that the employee knows what the problem is.
  • Explain acceptable behavior or performance standards and give the employee reasonable time to comply.  This may be a longer time frame if a skill needs to be learned or a shorter time frame if it is a behavior to be changed.
  • The employee must be informed of the consequences of failing to comply.  This is not a threat, rather it gives the employee reasonable expectations of the consequences if change does not occur.
  • Separate the facts from your personal feelings when conducting discipline.
  • Focus on behavior and the outcomes of behavior.  Concentrate on a specific action the employee has done or that you want him or her to do, rather than the employee's "personality" or "attitude."  When you focus on a specific behavior, the person will more likely be able to understand what you want and why, and feel less defensive about it.
    • Example of a behavior statement: "Your reports are consistently late."
    • Example of personality statement: "You are not very reliable about getting things done on time."
  • Describe the outcomes of the employee's behavior.  By illustrating the outcomes, you help the employee understand the business reasons behind why you have determined the behavior to be a problem, and that it is not simply "personal."
    • Example: "By not receiving your reports on time, I am unable to prepare the executive summary, and our group's budget won't get approved this quarter. Without budget approval, I'm unable to request that our vacant position be filled."
  • Allow time to discuss and think about the employee's ideas for improvement.
  • Discuss your own ideas for improvement.
  • Set a follow-up date to review and discuss the progress made in terms of achieving the expectations set forth in the action plan.
Probationary Period

Newly hired classified employees serve a probationary period.  The length of the probationary period is typically 6 months, but may be as long as one year for management positions.

 

The purpose of a probationary period is to give you an opportunity to determine if the employee is a good match for the position, whether the employee can meet the position's requirements, and whether the employee should be allowed to achieve permanent status in the position.

 

During the probationary period it is especially important to monitor and provide feedback on your employee's work performance and behavior.  If you identify performance or behavior concerns during an employee's probationary period that counseling and coaching do not correct, you may consider taking action to end the assignment.  Be sure to consult your Human Resources Representative to determine the procedures that must be followed in order to take action to terminate the assignment.

Steps in the Progressive Discipline Process

Informal Counseling/Coaching

Informal counseling or coaching is just that.  Typically oral, this action is taken to correct minor problems or to advise an employee of performance or behavior adjustments that are necessary.  Informal counseling or coaching may be confirmed in a follow-up letter to the staff member, a copy of which you should keep as documentation. 


Written Counseling

Formal counseling is designed to provide structured feedback that includes an action plan for achieving successful performance.  The plan should identify the performance problem, the actions necessary to correct the problem, and the time frames within which the problem must be corrected.  After the meeting, the supervisor prepares a written conference memo summarizing the meeting to be given to the employee.  The memo should include:

  • Concerns
  • Response
  • Assistance
  • Guidance
  • Directives
  • Signature

A copy of the memo is to be given to the employee.

 

Notice of Unsatisfactory Service

A Notice of Unsatisfactory Service can be issued with or without any recommended discipline (suspension, demotion, dismissal).  If discipline is recommended, a pre-disciplinary meeting must be held to warn the employee of the discipline.  Work with the Human Resources Representative, Staff Relations, or other designated individual to prepare this document.

 

Pre-Disciplinary Meeting

If the supervisor is going to recommend discipline, he or she should meet with the employee to let the employee know.  In most of our bargaining unit agreements, this step is a mandatory step in the discipline process.

 

Administrative Review (Skelly)

A meeting is typically requested during which the Administrator who is assigned as the Skelly Hearing officer, will meet with the employee that is being disciplined, to review the recommended discipline, and to hear the employee’s “side of the story”.  The Administrator will then make a decision as to whether to keep the recommendation for discipline as is, or alter it based on his or her findings.

 

Board Action

The Board reviews the recommendation for disciplinary recommendation and decides on whether to take action to formalize it.

 

Personnel Commission Hearing

If the Board takes action to accept the discipline, then the employee may request to appeal the discipline with the Personnel Commission.  The Personnel Commission will hold a hearing and then based on the facts of the case, will act to sustain, modify, or reverse the action.  The Personnel Commission’s act is final (unless there is legal action taken beyond LAUSD).

 

The Discipline Process—An Overview

Who to Contact with Questions
UNIT MAJOR JOB
CLASSIFICATIONS
WHERE TO CALL FOR
ASSISTANCE
EXCLUSIVE
REPRESENTATIVE
AALA (Certificated Administrators) School Administrators Staff Relations - Central Office
(213) 241-6056
Associated Administrators of
Los Angeles (AALA)
UTLA (Teachers) Teachers,
Counselors, School Psychologists,
Library Media Teachers, Nurses
Staff Relations
Field Director
United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA)
A (School Police) Police Officers,
School Safety Officers
Police Sergeant LA School Police Association (LASPA)
B (Instructional Aides) Education Aides, Campus Aides, Special Ed. Assts., Instruction Aides, Early Education Center Aides Labor Relations Representative SEIU, Local 99
C (Operations Support
Services)
Building and Grounds Workers,
Cafeteria Workers, Bus Drivers,
Housekeepers, Microcomputer Support Assistants
Cafeteria staff- Food Services Supv.
Custodial staff- Area Operations Supv.
Bus Drivers- Area Bus Supv.
Housekeepers, Microcomputer Support Assistants- Labor Relations Rep.
SEIU, Local 99
D (Office-Technical
& Business Services)
Office Technicians, Clerks, Early Childhood Education Center Office Managers, Sr. Office Technicians, Financial Managers, Continuation School Office Managers Clerical Staff -
Staff Relations Labor Relations Representative
California School Employees Assn. (CSEA)
E (Skilled Crafts) Carpenters, Plumbers,  Electricians Complex Project Mgr. L. A./Orange County Building & Construction Trades Council
F (Teacher Assistants) Teacher Assistants Labor Relations Representative SEIU, Local 99
G (School Supervision) School Supervision Aides Labor Relations Representative SEIU, Local 99
H (Police Supervisors) Sergeants, Lieutenants, Supv. School Safety Officers School Police Dept
Deputy Chief
LA School Police Sergeant & Lieutenants Association
S (Classified Supervisors) School Administrative Assistants
Cafeteria Managers,
Plant Managers
School Adm. Asst.- Labor Relations Rep.
Cafeteria Managers-Food Services Branch
Plant Managers- Area Operations Sup.
Teamsters, Local 572