Wilkes University believes that employees play a valuable role in helping fulfill the University’s mission. To protect the interests and safety of all employees and the University, Wilkes expects all to abide by University policies and rules of conduct at all times. Since employment with Wilkes University is based on mutual consent, and both the employee and Wilkes University have the right to terminate employment at-will, with or without cause, at any time. Nothing contained in this policy is intended to alter the at-will employment relationship between the University and its employees or to create legally enforceable contractual rights.
In effort to ensure that all employees are treated consistently and equitably, Wilkes has established a progressive discipline process to be used at its sole discretion to address and modify or correct employee behavior. Progressive discipline is not a guarantee and may not always be utilized in situations involving misconduct which could result in termination of employment, without going through the usual progressive discipline steps. The University recognizes that certain employee issues are serious enough to warrant a suspension, or, in very serious situations, termination of employment, without going through the usual progressive discipline steps. Disciplinary action may call for any of four steps--verbal warning, written warning, suspension or termination of employment--and may be initiated at any of the four steps depending on the severity of the problem and the number of occurrences. There may be circumstances when one or more steps are bypassed.
Employees are responsible to be aware of and abide by existing policies, procedures, rules and regulations. Employees with questions or concerns related to existing policies, procedures, rules and regulations should seek clarification from their supervisors and/or the Human Resources Department. Employees must perform job duties according to the established standards of their position and are encouraged to request additional guidance when needed.
Supervisors must ensure that all employees recognize and understand the responsibilities and expectations of their position. Supervisors must:
- Maintain open, honest communication with employees by encouraging and answering employees’ questions and concerns.
- Establish standards of employee conduct at the time of hire and as appropriate after (see Employee Conduct Policy).
- Provide coaching and constructive feedback to employees related to adherence to policies and procedures.
- Communicate potential consequences of conduct issues.
- Exemplify the standards and serve as a role model for all employees.
- Identify and address issues according to the following progressive discipline process.
Prior to implementing progressive disciplinary action, supervisors should first utilize counseling or informal conversations to apprise employees of concerns (which are not considered discipline). Supervisors should explain what is unsatisfactory, reinforce expectations and recommend how to remedy the problem to avoid recurrence. Employees should be given the opportunity to explain the behavior in question and provide input for the plan to improve and/or correct the situation. Supervisors should maintain documentation of these discussions at the department level.
If/when employees fail to correct the unacceptable behavior and/or violate policies/procedures, the disciplinary action plan may call for any of the following four steps— verbal warning, written warning, suspension and/or termination of employment--and may be initiated at any of the four steps depending on the nature and severity of the issue and/or the number of occurrences. In cases related, but not limited to serious misconduct and/or repeated infractions, supervisors, in consultation with Human Resources, may move directly to a later step in the process, including termination. Managers should consult with Human Resources prior to initiating the Progressive Discipline process.
- Verbal Warning: In the event that that the counseling or informal conversation does not resolve the problem, or the nature/severity of the problem warrants further action, the employee should be given a Verbal Warning regarding the issue. The verbal warning should be specifically state the reason for the action and the specific corrective action the employee should take to resolve the situation. The employee should be informed that future incidents or failure to appropriately resolve the issue may result in additional progressive discipline. The verbal warning remains in effect for 12 months. Supervisors should forward a completed copy of the Employee Discipline/Warning Notice to the Human Resources Department. Employees should also be given a copy of the document for their records.
- Written Warning: After an employee receives a verbal warning, a subsequent offense
should be addressed with a written warning. Written warnings should be reviewed with
the Chief Human Resources Officer or designee prior to discussing with the employee.
When possible, the written warning should:
- Specifically describe the situation prompting the warning and include date, time, location, and all other relevant information
- Explain why the behavior is unacceptable
- Review corrective action plan that was agreed upon during verbal warning (if applicable)
- Refer to additional disciplinary action that may be taken if the behavior continues or additional problems occur.
Once approved, the supervisor should review the written warning with the employee and exchange ideas and information regarding solution(s) to the problem. The written warning remains in effect for 12 months. Supervisors should forward a completed copy of the Employee Discipline/Warning Notice to the Human Resources department. Employees should also be given a copy of the document for their records.
- Suspension is the third step of the disciplinary procedure. Whenever possible, suspensions should be discussed with the Chief Human Resources Officer or designee first. Depending on the gravity of the situation, the employee may be placed on investigatory suspension (see Employment Termination Policy). Prior to the disciplinary action suspension, the employee will meet with the supervisor and Human Resources. If it is determined that termination for repeated offenses or a single serious offense is unwarranted, the employee will be suspended without pay. At that time, the supervisor will review the current issue and previous related disciplinary actions (when applicable). The supervisor will also reiterate expectations and explain that any additional misconduct may result in termination of employment. Record of the suspension remains in effect for 12 months. Supervisors should forward a completed copy of the Employee Discipline/Warning Notice to the Human Resources Department. Employees should also be given a copy of the document for their records.
- Termination of employment may occur as the final step of the progressive discipline process or as a result of a very serious offense. Prior to any termination, the supervisor must review all relevant information with the Chief Human Resources Officer and appropriate Vice President.
Revised: 07/03/2014 Reviewed: 01/2019