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. 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 are 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 situation's seriousness and the circumstances. The evaluation of the situation's seriousness 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. These forms of corrective action are used, or whether any others are used before termination, will depend upon management's assessment of the situation's seriousness.
The following are some examples of problems or conduct that may result in corrective action, up to and including termination. This list is nonexclusive.
- Falsification of or omissions from work, personnel, or other university records
- Arrests for or convictions of crimes committed at work or outside of work which reflect unfavorably upon a staff member's suitability for continued employment
- Violation of the civil or criminal laws on university property or while on university business
- Abuse or violation of university policies
- Failure to call in each day according to university and departmental policies when unable to report to work (unless calling in would result in an undue burden on the staff member)
- Working under the influence of illegal drugs or alcohol (see "Alcohol and Drug Policy" and "Drug and Alcohol Testing Policy" in the Campus-wide Policies section of this manual)
- The manufacture, possession, use, distribution, dispensation, or sale of illegal drugs or alcohol on university time or premises (see "Alcohol and Drug Policy" and "Drug and Alcohol Testing Policy" in the Campus-wide Policies section of this manual)
- Inefficient or unproductive use of work time (including personal use of university communication, computing, or network resources, sleeping while on duty, unauthorized absence from assigned work areas)
- Working unauthorized overtime
- Negligent, below standard, or unsatisfactory job performance
- Neglect of duty
- Failure or refusal to perform assigned work or carry out management requests
- Violation of safety rules or procedures
- Dishonesty, including but not limited to plagiarism, falsification of academic credentials, gaining unauthorized access to or falsification of university reports or records, misappropriation or misapplication of university funds
- Excessive tardiness in reporting to work, and/or in returning late from break and/or meal periods or leaving early
- Rude or unprofessional conduct with students, faculty, staff, or the general public
- Engaging in or threatening physical violence
- Any negligent act which might endanger one's own safety or life, the safety or lives of others, or which might result in damage to or destruction of university property (including driving university vehicles negligently, losing university property through negligence, etc.)
- Carrying unauthorized persons in university vehicles
- Having unauthorized family members, friends, or animals in the workplace
- Misuse, abuse, unauthorized possession, removal, or use of university property or unauthorized charges to university accounts
- Discrimination against or harassment of staff members, faculty members, students, or other constituents (see “Policy Prohibiting Sex-Based Discrimination, Sexual Harassment and Sexual Misconduct” or the “Campus Policy Prohibiting Discrimination and Harassment” in the Campus-wide Policies section of this manual)
- Possession of firearms, explosives, flammable, or other weapons of any kind on university time or university premises
- Conflicts of interest or the failure to resolve a conflict of interest
- Disclosure of confidential university information to unauthorized persons
The Director of Human Resources in the Department of Human Resources is available to discuss the corrective action options used in a particular case with supervisors and department heads. If a staff member indicates during the corrective action interview that personal life circumstances are affecting 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.
Progressive Corrective Action
The following discussion of a progression of corrective action that may be used is not to be interpreted as a guarantee that all of these steps will always be used. They must be exhausted before termination, or that other forms of corrective action cannot be used. It is provided as an example of how a supervisor might address situations in which management has determined that using these corrective action forms is 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 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 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 repeating the occurrence. The supervisor in their desk file should keep a written record of these discussions' dates and content.
For recurring performance problems or problems that 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 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 before termination and indicates a serious problem addressed by the staff member.
Staff members on a formal disciplinary warning (e.g., written or final written warning or suspension) are not eligible for university pay increases, promotions, or the ability to apply for other university position opportunities.
If appropriate, the supervisor may suspend a staff member in a non-exempt position without pay. Before the 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. However, discharge without prior warnings or suspension 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 serious misconduct concerns. In such instances, the department head should contact the Director of Human Resources or his or her designee. If the department head and the Director of Human Resources 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 Human Resources. 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