VANDERBILT UNIVERSITY HUMAN RESOURCES POLICIES AND PROCEDURES
EFFECTIVE DATE: January 1, 2023
UPDATED: June 1,2023
Approval Authority: Vice Chancellor for Administration
Responsible Administrator: Associate Vice Chancellor, HR
Responsible Office: Human Resources, HR Consulting
Policy Contact: Director, HR Consulting
POLICY STATEMENT/REASON FOR POLICY
The purpose of this policy is to define a structured process for correcting single and repeat episodes of employee failure to observe and comply with rules and/or to meet specific workplace expectations for conduct.
THIS POLICY APPLIES TO
This policy applies to all staff.
Vanderbilt expects employees to be aware of and follow all workplace policies and procedures. In addition, employees are expected to abide by all federal, state and local laws. In contrast to the Performance Accountability and Commitment policy, this policy defines the process for correcting single and repeat episodes of employee failure to observe and comply with rules and/or to meet specific workplace expectations for conduct.
Progressive Discipline is a step-by-step process designed to modify and improve unacceptable employee behaviors. Many situations may be resolved through verbal counseling or discussion with the employee; however, some one-time incidents may be severe enough to merit a written warning, suspension (without pay), final warning or termination. The seriousness of the offense and the employee's disciplinary and performance history will be considered when determining the level of discipline to be applied. Each incident should be assessed to determine the employee’s understanding of the rules and expectations, their willingness to follow them, any systems failures and workplace obstacles interfering with compliance, such as equipment malfunctions, and whether the action was the result of an excusable mistake, an inexcusable error or deliberate action. Taking these into account the supervisor, in consultation with Human Resources, will determine the appropriate level of discipline for each situation. In situations where an employee repeats the unacceptable behavior, the following discipline should be progressive. However, there may be situations where the severity or impact of the unacceptable behavior will warrant moving immediately to a written discipline, a final discipline or the termination of employment. All decisions to escalate disciplinary action to a higher level of discipline must be made in consultation with Human Resources. Situations may arise where an employee’s conduct and performance falls under both the Progressive Discipline Policy and the Performance Accountability & Commitment Policy. In these situations, the totality of the circumstances will be assessed when determining appropriate action. Vanderbilt reserves the right to combine or skip steps depending on the facts of each situation and nature of offense.
Examples of performance and conduct covered by this policy may include, but are not limited to:
- Violations of university policies, federal or state laws
- Violations of protocols, regulations and procedures governing safety or compliance for students, or employees.
- Misuse of fiscal or electronic resources or Vanderbilt facilities.
- Inappropriate and unprofessional behavior, such as profanity, insults, solicitation or any other violation of the code of conduct.
- Attendance and absenteeism (as outlined in the Attendance and Punctuality Policy)
Termination of Employment
Misconduct that involves dishonesty, violation of the law, or significant risks to Vanderbilt operations or the safety or well-being of oneself or others is grounds for immediate termination of employment. Decisions to terminate employment must be made in consultation with Human Resources. Examples of misconduct that may lead to immediate termination of employment may include but are not limited to:
- Violations of policy or procedure
- Anti-Harassment and Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action
- Hours of Work (i.e., unauthorized sleeping while on scheduled work time)
- Drugs & Alcohol
- Electronic Communication Policy
- Code of Conduct
- Violence in the workplace
- Possessing an unauthorized weapon on Vanderbilt time or premises
- Threatening or assaulting another person on Vanderbilt time or premises
- Serious neglect of duty, insubordination (including refusal to comply with university policy on background checks for current employees), violation of safety rules, dishonesty, falsification of university records, breach of confidentiality, unauthorized use of university resources for personal gain, unauthorized removal or destruction of property belonging to others
- Criminal Activity and Disclosures
- Failure to report a criminal arrest or conviction within three (3) business days; reports should be made to the employee’s supervisor and Human Resources through Oracle
- Failure to disclose criminal convictions as requested during a criminal background check performed pursuant to university policy
- Conviction of a crime involving dishonesty, violence or other behavior that impacts suitability for employment
- Activity that involves dishonest, violence or other behavior that impacts suitability for employment, whether or not it results in criminal prosecution or conviction
Employees' PTO may not be paid out for terminations deemed as gross misconduct. Depending on the severity of the behavior, an employee may be marked ineligible for rehire.
The purpose of progressive discipline is to assist employees by being clear and precise about problems and the consequences if the same or other mistakes or misconduct reoccur. It is important that discipline is applied in a fair, indiscriminate, and consistent manner. Prior to discipline being administered, a fair and objective investigation must be completed. An employee may be placed on a paid administrative leave during an internal investigation. The department should contact Human Resources prior to placing an employee on administrative leave. The employee is expected to be available during their regularly scheduled hours of work, should not be in the workplace, and should not conduct any business on behalf of Vanderbilt while on administrative leave.
Once the investigation is completed a decision on appropriate discipline will be determined by the supervisor in coordination with the HR Consultant (and other institutional offices, as needed).
Time for Improvement and Sustaining the Improvement
Discipline letters will remain on an employee’s record for 12 months. Should the similar inappropriate behavior recur, within a 12-month timeframe, the employee may progress to the next level of discipline.
An employee is expected to have sustained improvement while on progressive discipline. Should an employee be away from work for an extended and continuous period of time under any Vanderbilt University leave policy, the disciplinary action step may be extended equal to the time the employee was on leave. Extending progressive discipline should be done in consultation with Human Resources.
Impact of Written or Final Progressive Discipline Warning
The employee is required to share with the hiring manager, prior to the job offer, the circumstances and severity of the disciplinary action. This information may be a deciding factor in the hiring decision. Failure to disclose a disciplinary action prior to accepting an offer of transfer may also result in additional discipline, up to and including the termination of employment.
Employees on a final discipline warning during the evaluation period are not eligible for an annual increase. Employees on a written discipline warning during the evaluation period may not be eligible for an annual increase. At the manager’s discretion and in consultation with the HR Consultant, an increase for an employee who has been on a disciplinary warning may be considered provided they have significantly met and sustained performance expectations.
Resources Available to Employees
The Dispute Resolution Process is available to employees, who are outside their orientation period, if they wish to dispute a written warning or higher-level action that was taken under the Progressive Discipline Policy.
If there are allegations of a violation of the Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action Policy, Anti-Harassment Policy, or retaliation, the employee should contact the Office of Equal Access and Opportunity (EOA).
This policy is not intended to apply to statements or actions protected under Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act.
Nothing in this policy provides any contractual rights regarding employee discipline or counseling, nor should anything in this policy be read or construed as modifying or altering the employment-at-will relationship between Vanderbilt University and its employees.
When an employee applies for another position within Vanderbilt University.
New employees are subject to an orientation period. Non-exempt employees have a ninety-day orientation period, where exempt employees have a six-month orientation period following the date of hire. Internal transfers are not subject to an orientation period.
CONSEQUENCES OF NON-COMPLIANCE
Violation of this policy may result in disciplinary action, up to and including termination of employment.
Progressive Discipline Procedures
These are the procedures for the Progressive Discipline Policy. Please review the following link for the Progressive Discipline Policy.
The steps below are designed to help employees correct inappropriate behavior. All steps of the progressive discipline process should be documented in consultation with Human Resources.
Step 1- Verbal Warning:
In many situations a verbal warning/counseling is sufficient. The purpose of a verbal warning is to clarify policies and expectations. The impact of the incident or violation should also be taken into consideration. The supervisor should document that the conversation occurred, keeping in mind the significance of the impact of the act or omission. A follow up email to the employee after the counseling is recommended.
Step 2 - Written Warning:
If the conduct addressed by a verbal warning is repeated or additional problems occur within 12 months of a verbal warning, the supervisor should follow up with a written warning in the form of a letter. On the other hand, if a single incident is more serious than is appropriate for a verbal warning, the supervisor should issue a written warning in the form of a letter. The letter should describe the unacceptable conduct, outline expectations, and state that further disciplinary action will occur if the behavior is repeated within 12 months.
Step 3 - Final Written Warning (which may include a suspension without pay):
If the conduct addressed by the written warning is repeated or additional problems occur within a 12-month period, discipline may progress to a final written warning, which may include an unpaid suspension. However, a single incident may be so severe as to merit an immediate final warning and suspension without pay. As noted above, the supervisor should work in consultation with Human Resources prior to taking disciplinary actions at higher levels, such as written warnings, final written warnings (with or without unpaid suspension) and termination. The supervisor should follow up with a written final warning in the form of a letter. The letter should describe the unacceptable conduct, outline expectations and state that further disciplinary action will occur if the behavior is repeated within 12 months.
Step 4 - Termination of Employment:
If the conduct addressed by the final written warning is repeated or additional problems occur within a 12-month period, discipline may progress to termination. The supervisor should follow up with a written termination letter. The letter should describe the unacceptable conduct and notify the employee that their employment has been terminated.
Employment may be terminated based on progressive discipline within a 12-month period or based on the severity of a single incident.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Human Resources, HR Consulting
Performance Accountability and Commitment Policy
Disclaimer: The policies and procedures that guide employment practices are intended to assist in consistent administration and compliance. Vanderbilt reserves the right to modify its policies and practices, in whole or in part, at any time. Revisions to existing policies and procedures, and the development of new policies and procedures, will be made from time to time at the discretion of the University. When new policies are implemented or existing policies are revised, the University will notify members of the University community as soon as practicable. However, where differences occur, the most recent policy as reviewed and approved by the University will take precedence. Policies are not intended to apply to statements or actions protected under Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act. (NLRA) The policies and procedures do not create a contract, implied or expressed, with at-will employees at Vanderbilt.