Discipline Procedure - Am I doing it right?

We have a non-union, non-exempt employee who has lots of other problems - but we are disciplining him for conducting his personal lawn care business using city phones (regular and cellular) and a City computer. We are using a four step process (the longest discipline process set forth in our handbook). He was given the first written warning for phone usage on work time (to which there are two witnesses but the employee still denies). The second written warning will be given tomorrow based on advertising flyers for the lawn care business found on his C:\ drive. He has sinced deleted the files but we recovered the flyers and a lawn care invoice from his recycle bin.

The warnings are given to the employee with two members of management present and the employee has not requested that anyone else sit in with him. A third infraction will result in a three day suspension and a fourth infraction is discharge.

It is well known that the employee is going to school to be a teacher and only has his student teaching to do. We are encouraging this change of career (not in my school district!).

The Personnel Code requires the employee to notify us of any other employment. This employee works as an instructor for night school and has the lawn care business which he informed us about. He also drives a limo and we now suspect (but have not yet confirmed) that he works overnight stuffing newspapers. During the first written warning, the employee was asked if he has any jobs other than teaching, lawn care or limo driving. He said no. Can we ask him to put his other jobs in writing and then, if he doesn't disclose the newspaper job and it's true, can we discipline him? First step or third step?

I'm sorry for the length of this message but please let me know if you see anything in this story that I can do better or pitfalls I should watch out for.


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  • [font size="1" color="#FF0000"]LAST EDITED ON 06-25-01 AT 05:17PM (CST)[/font][p]I work for a local government entity in California.

    Remember, certain rights and responsibilities exist for both public sector employers and public sector employees that don't exist for the private sector employer and private sector employee. What you seem to be doing makes some sense. Each employer establishes its disciplinary process subject to its needs and consistent with whatever state laws or local enactments by the controlling governmental body exist.

    Since you don't have a union present, there is no MOU to worry about. HOWEVER, what you do have that probably doesn't exist in the private sector is the ability of the employee to appeal disciplinary action to an third party, under civil service or merit rules, or whatever system you have for the employment of individuals in your agency (Is it a school district? If it is there may even be state laws addressing the appeal rights). You need to make sure that whatever you do now or do later is "defendable" if it is challenged to this third party, especially if it involves a full-blown administrative hearing.

    You seem to be applying some form of progressive discipline which is usually good. You didn't give the time frame for the incidents. I assume that they all happened over a period of time, coming to management's attention at different times and independent of disciplinary action. I hope you are not doling out progessive discipline for each wrongdoing if all the incidents occurred at the same time or occurred in a time frame when each step of progressive discipline COULD NOT have had any impact on the employee in the "commission" of further wrongdoing.

    Usually, governmental entities like to have employees report outside employment to make sure there is no conflict of interests and probably to ensure the efficiency of the employee by limiting the number of hours of outside employment. Thus, his failure to report all outside employment is serious because it not only violates your agency's policy but all in essence the law -- the ordinance of the governmental jurisdiction addressing outside employment. If reporting outside employment is to be taken seriously by employees because it helps ensure no conflict of interest, then certainly you need to take a look at how you respond to make that point. If he fails to report all outside employment and you then determine that he does in fact have other jobs and he has signed a report that puts him on "notice", then you can get him for not only failuing to report outside employment, violating agency policy and related ordinance by working these other jobs and not reporting them, and falsifying the report by only identifiying SOME of the outside employment not ALL of them as he claimed he did on the report (assuming he has no justifiable explanation for not reporting all of his outside emplyment). The degree to which you discipline (including discharge) him at that point of course depends on his work history, the seriousness of the failiing to report and falsification. Again, the timing of the wrongdoing is important because if the latest wrong doing, for example, occurred BEFORE the steps of progressive disicpone were imposed, then you could not cite the progressive discipline aswarranting the more stringent action. You could cite his work history, including the preiovus wrongdoings, AND the seriousness of the current wrongdoing related to the outside emplyment as justifying the more stringent disciplinary step (There is nothing inherent in an effective progressive disicplnary program that would prevent you from by-passing steps if warranted, but if your policy requires that each step of discipline be imposed before the next step, then you have a different problem).

    It looks like from your post that you're in Illinois. I am not familiar with public sector employment laws of that state, so it's hard for me to say whether procedurally you are doing it right regarding meeting with the employee, investigating, and imposing the discipline or what requirements there are for reorting outside emplyment, misusing agency equipment for personal gain, etc. Remember, governmental entities in a state are not subject to NLRB but they may be subject to Illinois laws or particular state court cases addressing public employment.

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