Staff members at the University of Puget Sound are employed under the “at will” doctrine used within the State of Washington to describe the employment relationship. Under the “at will” doctrine, staff members have the right to terminate their employment at any time with or without cause or prior notice, and the University of Puget Sound retains the same right to terminate a staff member's employment at any time with or without cause or prior notice, regardless of any other documents or oral or written statements issued by the University of Puget Sound or its representatives. The only exceptions to the “at will” doctrine is in cases where there are violations of statutory or public-policy (e.g., whistle-blowing or protected, concerted activities or where discrimination has occurred) or where there is a contractual agreement.
The university takes appropriate corrective action based on its assessment of the seriousness of the situation and the circumstances. The evaluation of the seriousness of the situation and the relevancy of the circumstances are made solely by the university's management.
Corrective action may include oral or written warnings, performance appraisals indicating unsatisfactory or less than satisfactory performance, suspension, probation, termination, or a combination of all of the above. Which of these forms of corrective action are used, or whether any others are used prior to termination, will depend upon management's assessment of the seriousness of the situation.
The following are some examples of problems or conduct that may result in corrective action, up to and including termination. This list is nonexclusive.
The Director of Talent Management in the Department of Human Resources is available to discuss with supervisors and department heads the corrective action options which might be used in a particular case. If a staff member indicates during the corrective action interview that personal life circumstances are effecting their job performance, the supervisor should advise the staff member of the availability of confidential EAP services (in the event the staff member is unaware of or has forgotten about the EAP benefit), but should continue to focus exclusively on job performance.
The following discussion of a progression of corrective action which may be used is not, however, to be interpreted as a guarantee that all of these steps will always be used, or that they must be exhausted prior to termination, or that other forms of corrective action cannot be used. It is simply provided as an example of how a supervisor might address situations in which management has determined that using these forms of corrective action are appropriate.
If a staff member has failed to perform assigned work, failed to achieve job expectations or has violated department or university policies/procedures, it may be appropriate for the supervisor to first talk with the staff member about the issue. The supervisor should confirm whether the staff member understands the policies, procedures, work rules, or performance standards applicable. If not, they should be clearly explained.
The staff member should be advised that work performance related to the issue at hand is not acceptable or that the staff member has violated university policy or procedures. The supervisor and/or staff member may develop an action plan to avoid a repeat of the occurrence. A written record of the date and content of these discussions should be kept by the supervisor in their desk file.
For recurring performance problems, or for problems which should be addressed more formally in the first instance, a written warning may be appropriate. A written Performance Development Plan should be created that describes the problem, suggested courses of action, suggested time period for resolution of the problem, and identifies the consequences of a repeat of the problem(s). The written warning and Performance Development Plan should be presented to and discussed with the staff member. A copy of the written warning and Performance Development Plan should be sent to Human Resources for the staff member's personnel file. It should bear comments from the staff member, if applicable, and their signature. The staff member should be advised that the signature indicates receipt of a copy of the written warning and does not necessarily indicate agreement with the contents.
If a performance problem or other issues continue to persist after a formal written warning has been delivered to the staff member, a final written warning and additional Performance Development Plan may be appropriate. This is typically the last step in the progressive disciplinary process prior to termination and indicates a serious problem that must be addressed by the staff member.
Staff members who are on a formal disciplinary warning (e.g. written or final written warning, or suspension) are not eligible for university pay increases, promotions or ability to apply for other university position opportunities.
If appropriate, the supervisor may suspend a staff member in a non-exempt position without pay. Prior to suspension, the staff member should be informed in writing of the reasons for and length of the unpaid suspension. The supervisor must discuss the issue with the appropriate department head and Human Resources. Supervisors and department heads must discuss terminations with Human Resources. Discharge without prior warnings or suspension, however, may be utilized whenever the university, in its sole discretion, determines that it is appropriate.
Also, at the university's discretion, staff members may be suspended while the university investigates concerns regarding serious misconduct. In such instances, the department head should contact the Director of Talent Management or his or her designee. If the department head and the Director of Talent Management determine that an investigation is warranted, they may notify the Director of Security Services. The Director of Security Services may take the lead and conduct the investigation.
If the Director of Security Services believes that an immediate suspension is appropriate, the staff member(s) will be notified by the department head of immediate suspension from employment pending further investigation. The Director of Security Services may also issue temporary suspensions if unable to contact the staff member's department head. The investigation may include interviews with the suspended staff member.
When the Director of Security Services' investigation is complete, a meeting should be arranged involving the department head, the staff member(s), the Director of Security Services, and the Director of Talent Management. Disposition (continued employment, suspension, termination, etc.) and/or referral efforts may be discussed at this time.
A staff member in a non-exempt position who is being terminated by the university after completing the initial evaluation period may receive ten (10) working days' notice of dismissal or ten (10) working days' pay with attendance at work not required.
A staff member in an exempt position who is being terminated by the university after completing the initial evaluation period may receive twenty (20) working days' notice of dismissal or twenty (20) working days' pay with attendance at work not required.
Origination Date: 9/1978
Revised 1996; 12/2018