Virginia Tech®home

Progressive Discipline

Employee Relations is available to consult with employees and supervisors when there are questions or concerns about expectations, performance, or behavior in the workplace. The team can coach employees and supervisors on appropriate options for resolution as well as make referrals to other campus resources. 

Virginia Tech uses a progressive disciplinary process to address performance and behavioral problems. Prior to discussing this process, it is important that employees and managers understand what are acceptable workplace behaviors and comply with the policies outlined in the Department of Human Resources Management (DHRM) and Virginia Tech Policies

Departments may also have their own Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs), many of which include guidelines or standards for attendance, dress, requests for time off, and department-specific issues. Employees should contact their supervisor for information related to departmental procedures. Below are some highlights of expectations for employees and managers.

  • Perform assigned duties and responsibilities with the highest degree of public trust.
  • Devote full effort to job responsibilities during work hours.
  • Maintain the qualifications, certification, licensure, and/or training requirements identified for positions.
  • Demonstrate respect for Virginia Tech and toward coworkers, supervisors, managers, subordinates, students, and customers.
  • Use state equipment, time, and resources judiciously and as authorized.
  • Support efforts that ensure a safe and healthy work environment.
  • Utilize leave and related employee benefits in the manner for which they were intended.
  • Resolve work-related issues and disputes in a professional manner and through established business processes.
  • Meet or exceed established job performance expectations.
  • Make work-related decisions and/or take actions that are in the best interest of Virginia Tech.
  • Comply with the letter and spirit of all state and agency policies and procedures, the Conflict of Interest Act, and commonwealth laws and regulations.
  • Report circumstances or concerns that may affect satisfactory work performance to management, including any inappropriate (fraudulent, illegal, unethical) activities of other employees.
  • Obtain approval from supervisor prior to accepting outside employment.
  • Obtain approval from supervisor prior to working overtime, if non-exempt from the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).
  • Work cooperatively to achieve work unit and Virginia Tech goals and objectives.
  • Conduct in a manner that supports the mission of Virginia Tech and the performance of duties.

In addition to the behavioral expectations identified for employees, management is responsible for and retains the authority to manage and direct the size of the workforce, the work environment, work assignments, work hours, promotions, demotions, transfers, dismissals, and all other personnel actions.

Progressive disciplinary process

Timely, appropriate, and effective feedback is essential to effective performance and the progressive disciplinary process. While the process below is described as progressive, at times, an offense may be so severe that the appropriate response is to move directly to a written notice.

The following progressive disciplinary process applies to university and classified staff employees. Contact Employee Relations and/or your college or department’s HR representative for guidance relating to discipline for probationary staff employees

The first step in the progressive disciplinary process may be a private discussion between the supervisor and the employee in which:

  • The supervisor identifies the performance/conduct problem, its impact on the operation of the business unit, and the performance/conduct expectation.
  • The employee is offered an opportunity to provide information as to any factors that may have contributed to the problem.
  • Any resources that might be helpful are identified, including coaching, skills training, mediation of workplace conflict, voluntary referral to the Employee Assistance Program, etc.
  • An action plan to access any identified resource is developed.

A notation that a discussion has occurred should be kept in the supervisor’s file.

If the problem continues, after an informal discussion of a performance/conduct problem, the supervisor and employee may meet again privately to discuss the problem.

  • The supervisor identifies the performance/conduct problem, its impact on the operation of the business unit, and the performance/conduct expectation.
  • The employee is offered an opportunity to provide information as to any factors that may have contributed to the problem.
  • Potential resources are identified and an action plan for accessing those resources is established.

This time, following the discussion, a counseling memo is issued to the employee.

The counseling memo should be a summary of the discussion between the supervisor and the employee. It should include sections in which:

  • The problem is identified, including the impact of the problem on the business unit.
  • Any factors that contribute to the problem are defined.
  • The action plan to address those factors is explained.
  • The expected performance/conduct is defined and the plan for follow up communication is outlined.

Counseling memos are retained in the supervisor’s files. They do not become a part of the employee’s personnel file unless the performance/conduct problem continues and the counseling memo becomes an attachment to a subsequent performance/disciplinary action.

Template: Counseling memorandum on behavior and Counseling memorandum on performance

A notice of improvement needed/ unsatisfactory performance may be issued in lieu of a counseling memo. The form contains:

  • A section in which the problem is identified (including the impact of the problem on the business unit).
  • A section for a performance improvement plan.

The performance improvement plan should include:

  • A review of performance expectations.
  • An action plan to address factors impacting the employee’s performance.
  • The plan for follow up monitoring of performance.

The performance improvement period will vary depending upon the performance problem but should allow adequate time for the employee to demonstrate improvement.

The form is retained in the supervisor’s file. It does not become a part of the employee’s personnel file unless it is used to support an overall rating of “Unacceptable Performance” on the annual performance evaluation or unless it is used to support a written notice.

Template: Notice of Improvement Needed/ Unsatisfactory Performance (Form P142)

It is best to contact a Human Resources representative or Employee Relations before issuing any written notice.

Important information:

  • A written notice may be issued for disciplinary concerns that cannot be resolved through informal means. 
  • A written notice can only be issued to university and classified staff employees who have completed their 12-month probationary period.
  • An official due process letter must be issued before a written notice is provided, and a due process meeting will need to be held. Consult with your college or department’s HR representative or Employee Relations for assistance. 

Overview:

  • The Commonwealth of Virginia Policy 1.60: Standards of Conduct groups conduct and performance offenses according to severity. Group I offenses are least serious; Group III offenses are most serious and usually warrant termination of employment. 
  • Written notices have an active life which varies according to the level of the offense. Employees may be suspended for offenses categorized as Group II or Group III offenses. Refer to Attachment A: Examples of Offenses Grouped by Level of Policy 1.60: Standards of Conduct or contact Employee Relations for additional information.
  • Written notices are retained in the employee’s personnel file with all supporting documentation including previously issued counseling memos and/or P142s. Departments are responsible for submitting all documentation online to the HR Service Center.
  • Written notices may be used to support an overall rating of “Unacceptable Performance” on the annual performance evaluation.

Template: Written Notice

For information about the steps involved in discipline for A/P Faculty, contact your college or department’s HR representative or Employee Relations.

When considering a disciplinary suspension or termination, contact your college or department’s HR representative or Employee Relations.

A grievance process is outlined in the Grievance Procedure Manual for staff employees, and in the Faculty Handbook for A/P faculty. Contact your college or department’s HR representative or Employee Relations for additional information on grievances.