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Human Resource Manual

0701 - Employee Discipline

Contents

Introduction

  1. Employee performance and behaviour is expected to contribute toward the achievement of the organization's goals and objectives. When an employee's performance or behaviour is unsatisfactory, corrective action must be taken. Corrective action will follow the process of progressive discipline when the situation is a result of inappropriate behaviour or unsatisfactory performance when the employee has the ability to perform at an acceptable level but chooses not to do so.

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Application

  1. These guidelines and procedures apply to all employees, except those employed by the NWT Power Corporation.

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Definitions

  1. Management and Recruitment Services is the Management and Recruitment Services Division of the Department of Human Resources.
  2. Disciplinary Suspension is the temporary removal without pay of an employee from the place of duty to stress upon the employee the seriousness of the misconduct.
  3. Suspension Pending Investigation is the temporary removal with pay of an employee from the place of duty to facilitate an investigation into allegations of misconduct or incompetence.
  4. Dismissal is the termination, at the Employer’s discretion, of an individual’s employment in a Public Service position for cause.
  5. Labour Relations is a unit in the Corporate Human Resource Services Division of the Department of Human Resources.
  6. Standards of General Conduct are accepted forms of performance, activity and behaviour that generally require no set rules to ensure compliance that an individual ought reasonably to have known (e.g., dressing appropriately, treating co-workers and clients with respect).
  7. Standards of Particular Conduct are established work rules or orders set out by the Employer (e.g., taking coffee breaks according to a rotational schedule, seeking advance approval for all absences).
  8. Written Reprimand is a written warning that performance or conduct is unsatisfactory and must be corrected.  A copy of the written reprimand is placed on the employee's personnel file, becoming part of the employee's record.
  9. Culpable Misconduct is improper or unprofessional conduct where the employee has control of the behaviour.
  10. Verbal Reprimand is a verbal warning that performance or conduct is unsatisfactory and must be corrected.

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Guidelines

  1. Discipline should not be viewed as punishment, but as a method of correcting a problem.
  2. The supervisor must inform an employee of the standards of particular conduct that apply in the workplace.
  3. An employee may be disciplined for breaching standards of general conduct or standards of particular conduct.
  4. Disciplinary action should only be taken after an employee has an opportunity to provide an explanation of his/her behaviour.  A meeting should be held with the employee for this purpose.
  5. Prior to any disciplinary action taking place, an employee who is a member of the Union of Northern Workers (UNW) must receive 24 hours advance notice of a meeting and of the right to Union representation if:
    1. it may result in suspension, discharge or dismissal; and
    2. a letter of suspension or dismissal is delivered and the issue is to be discussed with the employee.
  6. If an employee, who is a member of the UNW, is required to attend a meeting that may result in his or her suspension or dismissal, he/she may request to postpone the meeting for a maximum of three working days.
  7. It is inappropriate to allow other employees to witness the discipline of a co-worker.  Interviews involving discipline must be scheduled in advance and held in private.
  8. The supervisor should take notes of all discussions and meetings.
  9. Disciplinary action should not be unduly delayed.
  10. The progression of disciplinary measures for the Government of the Northwest Territories (GNWT) is as follows:
    1. Verbal warning;
    2. Written reprimand;
    3. One day suspension;
    4. Five day suspension;
    5. Ten day suspension; and
    6. Dismissal.
  11. Incidents of serious misconduct (such as assault, theft or serious insubordination) may warrant serious disciplinary measures, and steps of the progressive discipline process may be by-passed on the advice of Management and Recruitment Services.  Misconduct that occurs early in the employment, and/or occurs in a short period of employment is viewed as serious misconduct.
  12. The progressive discipline process may be accelerated for a casual employee resulting in dismissal without all the steps having been taken.  For example, a casual employee has an employment contract for three months.  During the first week of employment, the employee misses two days of work without notice or explanation.  Given the short-term nature of this casual employment contract and the early emergence of problems, it is reasonable for the supervisor to consider and recommend dismissal.
  13. Disciplinary steps may be repeated on the advice of the Department of Human Resources in cases involving significant mitigating factors.
  14. Supervisors should review the the authorities for imposing discipline. If the employee fails to correct the behaviour, the discipline imposed increases with each incident as follows:

Step 1 - Verbal Reprimand

  • The employee’s immediate supervisor gives verbal reprimands.  The reprimand must be given in private and must address the area of concern including the possible outcome if the behaviour is not corrected.  The supervisor will identify the gap between the desired behaviour and the problematic behaviour.  The employee is given an opportunity to provide his or her version of the events.  The supervisor should take notes on the discussion that took place, as they may be needed if it is necessary to move on to the next step.  These notes are not placed in the employee’s personnel file, but are used for the purpose of refreshing the supervisor’s memory.   The supervisor’s notes are kept in a secure and locked location.

Step 2 - Written Reprimand

  • The employee’s immediate supervisor gives written reprimands.  The supervisor is encouraged to consult with Client Services before proceeding.  The letter should include actions that may be taken if the inappropriate behaviour continues.  The supervisor schedules a meeting with the employee to discuss the problem.  The supervisor will identify the gap between the desired behaviour and the problematic behaviour.  The employee is given an opportunity to provide his or her version of the events.  The letter should be given in private and a copy is placed in the employee’s personnel file.

Step 3 - Disciplinary Suspension

  • Only Deputy Heads have authority to suspend employees.  The Deputy Head, upon reviewing the recommendation of the supervisor, administers disciplinary suspensions.  The supervisor makes the recommendation for suspension after looking into the matter and discussing the problem with the employee.  If the employee is a member of the UNW, prior to any meeting to discuss the problem, the employee must be given 24 hours notice of the right to Union representation. Suspensions are applied progressively, but should be appropriate to the seriousness of the misconduct.  The first suspension is for one day.  If this does not correct the behaviour and repetition occurs, the next incident would result in a five day suspension, and then a ten day suspension.  After a ten day suspension, dismissal would be considered.  Client Services should be consulted for advice on any matters where a suspension is being considered.

Non - Disciplinary Suspension

  • Deputy Heads do not give a disciplinary suspension where they feel an extensive investigation is required.  Where the Deputy Head feels an employee must be removed from the work site to properly conduct an investigation, a suspension pending investigation under Section 30 of the Public Service Act is required.  Section 55 of the Education Act also applies to teachers.

Step 4 - Dismissal

  • Only a Deputy Head has the authority to dismiss an employee from a Public Service position in the Deputy Head’s Department, Board or Agency. The supervisor makes a recommendation for dismissal after looking into the matter and hearing the employee’s explanation.  If the employee is a member of the UNW, prior to any meeting to discuss the problem, the employee must be given 24 hours notice of the right to Union representation.  The Deputy Head, upon reviewing the recommendation of the supervisor, gives the employee an opportunity to provide a written submission.
  1. In determining the appropriate disciplinary step to address an employee’s misconduct, the supervisor should consider factors including:
    1. the employee's length of service;
    2. the employee's past discipline record;
    3. the seriousness of the misconduct;
    4. the employee’s explanation; and
    5. any other pertinent facts.
  2. For a casual employee or an employee on probation, the progressive discipline process indicated above may be accelerated.
  3. Written reprimands, letters of suspension, letters of demotion and letters of dismissal are copied to an employee's personnel file.  Disciplinary letters for employees who are members of the UNW or excluded employees shall be removed and destroyed after 18 months of employment have elapsed since the disciplinary action was taken, provided that no further disciplinary action has been recorded during that period. Disciplinary letters for employees who are members of the Northwest Territories Teacher’s Association (NWTTA) or senior management shall be removed and destroyed after four years of employment have elapsed since the disciplinary action was taken, provided that no further disciplinary action has been recorded during that period. 
  4. The denial of an employee's performance increment is not part of the progressive discipline process.  An employee's increment may be denied if an employee's performance is poor (see Section 1000– Salary Administration for more information on pay increments and Section 1400– Planning and Development for information on the performance development system).

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Procedures

  1. The supervisor informs employees of the standards of particular conduct which apply to the workplace.
  2. When standards of conduct are not met, the supervisor initiates disciplinary action. The supervisor documents disciplinary action on the disciplinary action record sheet.
  3. To determine the appropriate course of action, the supervisor may contact Management and Recruitment Services.
  4. The supervisor holds a private interview (if the employee is a member of the UNW, the supervisor provides the employee with 24 hours advance notice of the meeting and the right to Union representation if suspension or dismissal may occur) with the employee before disciplinary action is taken to do the following:
    1. ensure the employee is aware of the problem;
    2. give the employee an opportunity to explain the circumstances surrounding the unsatisfactory performance or the breach of conduct;
    3. determine if the employee's actions were merely a result of misunderstanding directions, or if the employee wilfully broke rules of conduct; and
    4. explain to the employee how management is considering dealing with the misconduct.
  5. If the employee waives their right to Union representation, the employee must sign a waiver stating such.
  6. The employee is encouraged to use the Employee Family Assistance Program (EFAP), particularly if poor work performance is due to a private or work issue.  This should include providing the employee the toll-free number for EFAP (1-800-387-4765).  An employee is not required to reveal the nature of personal issues to the supervisor.
  7. Depending on the nature of the misconduct, the supervisor may speak to witnesses.
  8. The supervisor makes notes of the interviews.  These notes are not placed in the employee's personnel file, but are kept by the supervisor in a confidential manner for future reference should the behaviour continue.
  9. After taking into account all information, including the employee’s version of events and the advice of Management and Recruitment Services, the supervisor determines the appropriate level of discipline (if any).
  10. All discipline includes:
    1. an explanation of the behaviour for which the employee is being reprimanded;
    2. an explanation of how to correct the behaviour;
    3. an explanation of further action that will be taken if the employee fails to correct the behaviour; and
    4. an explanation to the employee that all disciplinary letters, including reprimands and suspensions, are placed on the employee’s personnel file.
  11. The supervisor may prepare a written reprimand.  The supervisor hand delivers this letter to the employee.  A copy is placed in the employee’s personnel file.
  12. Where a disciplinary suspension is the next step in the progressive discipline procedure, the supervisor must:
    1. consult with Management and Recruitment Services; and
    2. if warranted by the investigation, prepare a report for the Deputy Head and recommend disciplinary suspension.  The report must include the employee's explanation.  The supervisor, with the assistance of Management and Recruitment Services, drafts a letter of suspension.
  13. If the Deputy Head accepts the recommendation for suspension, he/she signs the letter of suspension.  The supervisor hand delivers this letter to the employee.  A copy is placed on the employee’s personnel file.
  14. If the employee is a member of the UNW, there will be no discussion of the problem when delivering a suspension letter.  A further meeting may be scheduled for this purpose allowing for 24 hours notice of the employee’s right to Union representation.
  15. A Deputy Head may consider dismissing an employee as the final step in progressive discipline, or as a result of one act of serious misconduct, on recommendation from the supervisor.  As much information as possible should included in the recommendation to ensure the Deputy Head is making an informed decision.  Labour Relations, through Management and Recruitment Services, must be consulted in situations where dismissal is being considered.
  16. The Deputy Head reviews the request for dismissal.  The following points are examined during this process:
    1. Does the seriousness or persistence of the problem warrant dismissal (i.e., misconduct such as theft, fraud, insubordination, dishonesty or progression of lesser but cumulative issues)?
    2. What are the Employer’s rules for dealing with the particular offence?  Have these rules been followed?
    3. Are there precedents for dealing with similar incidents?
    4. Was it made clear to the employee that this offence may result in dismissal?
    5. What is the length of the employee's service?
    6. What is the employee's performance like and are performance appraisals on file?
    7. Was the employee given a chance to provide an explanation or his/her version of the events?
    8. Are there any mitigating factors (i.e., remorse, extreme stress, illness)?
  17. The Deputy Head advises the employee in writing of the recommendation for dismissal. The letter must contain the reasons for the recommended dismissal and clearly outline that the employee has five days in which to make a written submission on his/her behalf.  Employees are not required to attend work during this five day period and continue to receive pay.
  18. After reviewing all of the information, including the written submission (if provided) and the advice of Labour Relations, the Deputy Head determines if dismissal is appropriate.  The Deputy Head consults with Labour Relations, through Client Services, and informs the employee in writing of his/her dismissal from the Public Service.
  19. The letter of dismissal should clearly state the reasons for the dismissal, why further employment cannot continue and that dismissal of the said position is effective immediately.  This letter also informs the dismissed employee of his/her three year ineligibility of employment with the Territorial Public Service in order to re-establish a positive work record.
  20. The supervisor hand delivers this letter of dismissal to the employee. If the employee is a member of the UNW, there will be no discussion of the problem when delivering a dismissal letter unless the employee has been given 24 hours notice of the employee’s right to Union representation, prior to the delivery.
  21. The letter of dismissal is copied to the employee’s personnel file and to the Manager, Labour Relations with the Department of Human Resources.
  22. A copy of the letter of dismissal is hand delivered or faxed to the appropriate Client Services office for pay action.
  23. For dismissal of probationary employees see Section 1601- Termination- Rejection on Probation.

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Authorities and References

Public Service Act
Section 32
Section 33

Education Act
Section 53 – 57, Teachers Contracts, Suspensions and Dismissals

Main Collective Agreement with the UNW
Article 37, Adjustment of Disputes

Collective Agreement with the NWTTA
Article 18.07 – 18.09, Dismissal

Human Resource Manual
Section 109, Screening Applicants
Section 702, Casual Employees
Section 703, Suspension Pending Investigation
Section 705, Employees on Probation
Section 1004, Pay Increments
Section 1406, Performance Development System

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