Policy Number: 187
Discipline and Dismissal of Classified Employees
I. POLICY AND GENERAL STATEMENT
The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston ("university") encourages fair, efficient and equitable solutions for problems arising out of the employment relationship and to meet the requirements of state and federal law.
The purpose of this policy is to provide a procedure for the discipline and dismissal of classified employees who are subject to its provisions. Classified employees are at-will employees who serve without tenure. No provision of the policy and procedures that follows shall confer rights to employees that are contrary to the employment-at-will doctrine.
The policy and procedures described herein apply to conduct or job performance of a classified employee that results in a management decision to impose a formal disciplinary action. A formal disciplinary action is either demotion, suspension without pay for a period not to exceed 30 calendar days, or termination of employment.
Reprimands (written or verbal), performance coaching, or other typical employee-employer interactions that may be of a disciplinary nature are not regarded as formal disciplinary actions. Supervisors are expected to take these types of actions when and if they feel such actions are appropriate. Such actions should be documented in an employee's departmental file. These types of supervisory actions may be grieved by the employee through the grievance procedure stated in HOOP Policy 146 Grievances.
The formal disciplinary actions described herein are those appropriate for significant performance and/or conduct problems. Supervisors are expected to impose these disciplinary actions for poor work performance and/or unacceptable conduct. These actions must be documented in an employee's official personnel file. Demotions, suspensions without pay and terminations may be appealed by the employee within the provisions of this policy.
The policy and procedures described herein do not apply to:
- UT Police classified employees;
- employees being separated from the university due to a reduction in force;
- employees suspended with pay pending an investigation;
- employees who have not successfully completed the probationary period;
- administrative and professional employees;
- persons who are employed in positions that require student status as a condition of employment;
- the dismissal of persons who occupy positions dependent upon funding from a specific source and such funding is not received or is ended;
- the dismissal of persons who are dismissed due to financial exigency;
- the dismissal of persons who are appointed for a stated period that is less than six months;
- the dismissal of persons who are appointed at a per diem or hourly rate and work on an as needed basis;
- the dismissal of persons who have not attained or maintained the necessary clearance, certification or licensure for their position; or,
- the dismissal of persons who have exhausted applicable leave entitlements.
Suspension with pay may be imposed at the discretion of the supervisor in consultation with the Office of Human Resources when it is in the best interest of the university, including removing an employee from the premises pending an investigation of the employee's conduct or in the event that an employee's behavior poses an immediate threat to himself, other employees or university property. Formal disciplinary actions must be reviewed by Human Resources.
A. Employee Responsibilities
Employees are responsible for knowledge of and compliance with the performance criteria for their jobs and with all rules, regulations, procedures and/or standards of conduct established by The University of Texas System Board of Regents, the university and their departments.
1. Work Performance
Any employee who does not fulfill the responsibilities set out by such work performance criteria and/or does not comply with rules, regulations and/or procedures may be subject to disciplinary action, up to and including termination.
Failure of an employee to maintain satisfactory work performance can constitute grounds for disciplinary action including termination. Work performance includes all aspects of an employee's work. Work performance is judged by the supervisor; work performance that does not satisfy work performance standards or does not comply with the supervisor’s instructions will be subject to disciplinary action, up to and including termination.
All employees are expected to maintain standards of conduct suitable and acceptable in the work environment. Disciplinary action including termination may be imposed for unacceptable conduct.
The following are examples of conduct subject to disciplinary action. This list is not exhaustive.
• Falsification of official university documents, employment applications, or records.
• Neglect of duties, loafing or wasting work time.
• Smoking on university premises.
• Sexual misconduct including any and all conduct of a sexual nature that is unprofessional and/or inappropriate for worksites, teaching locations, and other official functions. Sexual misconduct includes unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, or verbal and physical conduct of a sexual nature directed toward another individual (same or opposite gender) that does not rise to the level of sexual harassment but is unprofessional and inappropriate for the workplace or classroom.
• Gambling, participating in lotteries or other games of chance on university premises.
• Soliciting, collecting money or circulating petitions on the premises other than within the policies of the university.
• Bringing intoxicants or controlled substances onto the premises; using intoxicants or controlled substances on the premises; having intoxicants or controlled substances in one's possession on the premises; or being under the influence of intoxicants or controlled substances on the premises at any time. Note: This provision does not apply to the consumption of alcoholic beverages served in accordance with university policy at university-sponsored events.
• Abuse or waste of tools, equipment, fixtures, property, supplies or goods that are the property of the university.
• Creating or contributing to unhealthy or unsanitary conditions.
• Violating safety rules or accepted safety practices.
• Failure to cooperate with supervisor or co-workers, impairment of function of the work group, or disruptive conduct.
• Disorderly conduct, horseplay, harassment of other employees (including sexual harassment), or use of abusive language on the premises.
• Fighting, encouraging a fight, or threatening, attempting, or causing injury to another person on the premises.
• Neglect of duty or failure to meet a reasonable and objective measure of efficiency and productivity.
• Theft, dishonesty, or unauthorized use of university property, including records and confidential information.
• Creating a condition hazardous to another person on the premises.
• Destroying or defacing institutional property or records or the property of another member of the university community.
• Refusing to follow instructions or to perform designated work that may be required or refusing to adhere to established rules and regulations.
• Repeated tardiness or absenteeism; absence without proper notification of the supervisor; absence without satisfactory reason; or unavailability for work.
• Possession of a weapon on the premises at any time, except as permitted by law.
B. Disciplinary Procedures
Once a supervisor has determined that demotion, suspension without pay or termination is an appropriate disciplinary action to consider imposing on an employee because of his or her unacceptable conduct or work performance, the supervisor should obtain the Notice of Disciplinary Action form from Human Resources and complete it. Completion of this document will assist the supervisor in fully documenting the alleged poor work performance and/or unacceptable conduct, the reasons for the disciplinary action being proposed, and/or the specific policies, regulations, procedures and/or standards of conduct that may have been violated. This document will also assist the supervisor in preparing for the pre-disciplinary meeting. Human Resources must be consulted by the supervisor.
The supervisor will inform the employee in person and/or in writing of the reasons for the action, the relevant facts of the situation, the names of any persons who have made statements about the situation and the content of such statements. The employee shall be provided with an opportunity to respond to the charges either verbally and/or in writing within a reasonable time not to exceed two working days before a final decision is made whether to take disciplinary action. The pre-disciplinary notification serves as an opportunity to avoid mistaken decisions to impose discipline and is not intended to address the propriety of the disciplinary action being considered.
After review of the employee's response, the supervisor may impose disciplinary action if, in his or her judgment, it is appropriate. Human Resources will participate in all disciplinary proceedings. The supervisor shall give the employee a copy of the completed Notice of Disciplinary Action, which will serve as formal notification of disciplinary action. The supervisor must also inform the employee of the right to appeal a demotion, suspension without pay or termination and provide the employee with a copy of this policy.
C. Effect Upon Employee Benefits
An employee who is suspended without pay will continue to accrue vacation and sick leave, to be covered by group insurances, and to be entitled to other employee benefit programs in accordance with university policy. If the demotion or suspension without pay is overturned upon appeal, the employee will be entitled to payment of wages lost as a result of the demotion or suspension without pay. Additionally, if a demotion is overturned after appeal, the employee will be returned to work to his or her former position. An employee who is terminated will not accrue vacation and sick leave, be covered by group insurances, or be entitled to other employee benefit programs effective on the date of termination. If the termination is overturned on appeal, the employee will be reinstated to his or her position and will be entitled to payment of wages lost as a result of the termination (less any unemployment compensation received by the employee after termination). Employee benefits such as vacation and sick leave will be credited back to the date of termination.
D. Procedure for Appeal
Demotion, suspensions without pay and terminations may be appealed by the affected employee pursuant to the process set out below by submitting a written request for an appeal to the dean or administrative equivalent. The request must be made within seven calendar days following the date of the disciplinary action. Calculation of calendar days does not include holidays or “skeleton crew” days as indicated on the published university calendar. The dean or administrative equivalent must consult with Human Resources - Employee Relations regarding the appeal process. If the dean or administrative equivalent made the decision regarding the disciplinary action, the appeal shall be filed with the Senior Executive Vice President, Chief Operating and Financial Officer.
The dean or administrative equivalent shall, at his or her discretion, either hear the appeal in person or appoint a delegate(s) to hear the appeal. The appeal proceeding shall be conducted as soon as is practical, but not later than 30 calendar days following the date of receipt of the appeal if it is to be heard by the dean or administrative equivalent or within 30 calendar days of the appointment by the dean or administrative equivalent of a delegate(s).
1. Naming of Delegate(s)
If the dean or administrative equivalent elects to appoint a delegate(s) to hear the appeal, the name or names will be furnished to the employee as soon as is practical after the selection is made. If more than one person is appointed, one of them shall be designated in the notice to the employee to serve as chair.
2. Challenge as to Fairness
An employee may challenge the fairness and impartiality of the dean or administrative equivalent or an appointed delegate(s). The challenge must be in writing and must state clearly the factual basis of the challenge. A challenge of the dean or administrative equivalent must be made within seven calendar days of the date of the request for an appeal and a challenge of the delegate(s) must be made within seven calendar days of the date of the notice appointing the delegate(s). It shall be up to the person challenged to determine whether he or she can serve with fairness and impartiality. If the challenged dean or administrative equivalent determines he or she cannot be fair and impartial, he or she shall appoint a delegate to hear the appeal. If a challenged delegate(s) determines he or she cannot be fair and impartial, the dean or administrative equivalent shall appoint another delegate(s).
3. Exchange of Information
At least seven calendar days prior to the date set for the appeal proceeding, a departmental representative for the appeal and the appealing employee shall furnish Human Resources - Employee Relations with the names of the witnesses to be called; a summary of their expected testimony; and three copies of each document, record, or exhibit to be introduced at the appeal proceeding. Human Resources will facilitate the exchange of information between the employee and the university. Human Resources will also provide this data to the dean or administrative equivalent or the appointed delegate(s) at least 24 hours in advance of the appeal proceedings whenever possible to allow time for review.
The dean or administrative equivalent or the delegate designated as chair shall preside at the appeal proceeding, ensure the order of presentation, and decide on questions of relevancy. The chair shall also have the discretion to determine the length of the proceeding and the form and scope of cross-examination allowed during the proceeding. Upon request, the chair may consult with and be advised by university counsel during the appeal.
5. Right to Representation
The employee has the right to be represented at the appeal proceeding by an attorney or some other individual representative who does not claim the right to strike. If the employee is represented by counsel, the university may also be represented by counsel. If the employee chooses to be represented by counsel or another individual representative who does not claim the right to strike, the name, address and telephone number of the attorney/other individual must be provided no later than 14 calendar days prior to the hearing date. If the employee does not provide this information within the time period prescribed, he or she waives representation by counsel or other representative.
6. Record of the Proceeding
All appeal proceedings will be recorded. This recording will serve as the official record of the proceeding. The employee may receive a copy of the recording on written request to Human Resources - Employee Relations.
If the employee is represented by counsel, the appeal hearing will be recorded by a court reporter who will swear in witnesses. The court reporter will be provided by the university. The employee may obtain at his or her cost a copy of the transcript on written request to Human Resources-Employee Relations.
7. Burden of Proof
The burden of proof is on the university to demonstrate by a preponderance of credible evidence that sufficient reason(s) exist(s) for the disciplinary action. The university shall have the right to open and close the proceeding.
The appeal proceeding shall consist of testimony by witnesses called by the university and the employee, with both parties having the right to cross-examine witnesses. Relevant exhibits may be introduced by either party and the proceeding officer shall take notice of the employee's personnel record. Relevancy of documents or other evidence is at the sole discretion of the proceeding officer.
Any employee may be asked to appear as a witness for either party. It shall be the duty of an employee requested to testify to do so regarding any facts within his or her personal knowledge which may be relevant to the appeal. It is the responsibility of each party to assure attendance by its witnesses.
10. Individuals Required to Attend Entire Meeting
The following individuals will be present throughout the proceeding:
- the proceeding officer;
- a representative of Human Resources, who will facilitate the meeting process;
- the employee (and/or representative); and
- the supervisor or other representative of the department or unit (and/or representative).
11. Notification to Dean or Administrative Equivalent
The delegate(s) shall deliberate, prepare and forward written findings and recommendations to the dean or administrative equivalent within 14 calendar days after the close of the appeal proceeding.
12. Employee Notification
The dean or administrative equivalent shall mail a written decision to the employee within 14 calendar days following the receipt of the findings and recommendations from the delegate(s).
If the dean or administrative equivalent has heard the appeal, he or she shall mail a written decision to the employee within 14 calendar days after the close of the appeal proceeding. The written decision will be sent via certified mail, return receipt requested, to the individual's home address.
The decision of the dean or administrative equivalent is final.
13. Time Limits
The time limits set forth in the appeal process must be adhered to by both the employee and the appropriate supervisory and administrative staff unless extended for good cause by the Chief Human Resources Officer.
The failure of the employee to process the appeal in a timely manner shall constitute withdrawal of the appeal.
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