[Major revision–posted 2/9/17 (replaces 1/27/12 edition)]
Operating Policy and Procedure
OP 70.31: Employee Conduct, Corrective Action, and Terminations
DATE: February 9, 2017
PURPOSE: The purpose of this Operating Policy/Procedure (OP) is to establish policy regarding employee conduct, corrective action, and terminations.
REVIEW: This OP will be reviewed in February of odd-numbered years by the Assistant Vice President for Human Resources and the Managing Director of Equal Employment Opportunity with substantive revisions forwarded to the Assistant Vice President for Administration and Chief of Staff for the President.
1. Definition of Terms
a. Voluntary Termination - Separation from employment that is initiated by the employee on his or her own accord.
b. Involuntary Termination - Separation from employment that is initiated by the university.
c. Employee - Any person paid with university funds.
2. Employee at Will
a. Employment at Texas Tech is governed by the employment at will doctrine. Employment is for an indefinite duration and can be terminated at any time, with or without cause and with or without notice, by either Texas Tech or the employee. Nothing in this or any other Texas Tech operating policy and procedure constitutes an employment agreement, either expressed or implied, a contract, a contractual relationship, a guarantee of continued employment, or a property right. No one can execute a contract of employment except the Board of Regents acting as a whole, the Chancellor, or the President of the university and any such contract must be within their legal authority and must be in writing.
b. Although Texas Tech is an at will employer, it seeks to define and exemplify standards of conduct and requires employees to function in accordance with this policy.
3. Employee Conduct
a. Colleges and universities that are tax-supported must function in accordance with the public trust, and the actions of all employees, whether faculty or staff, must be consistent with the execution of that trust. With this in mind, all employees are expected to acquaint themselves with the performance criteria for their particular job and with all rules, procedures, and standards of conduct established by the Board of Regents of the Texas Tech University System, the university, and the employee's department or unit. An employee who does not fulfill the responsibilities set out by such performance criteria, rules, procedures and standards of conduct, or who violates the standards established in this policy may be subject to corrective or adverse personnel action ranging from verbal counseling to termination from the university. The standards set forth below apply to all employees of the university regardless of classification, status, or title. In the case of faculty, all corrective actions or disciplinary procedures, except non-renewal of appointment, termination, or denial or revocation of tenure, will be governed by this OP.
The list below is not intended to be all-inclusive.
b. A breach of trust and/or misconduct includes, but will not be limited to, the following offenses:
(1) Failure to meet acceptable job performance standards or reasonable expectations, including professionalism, productivity, or quality established for the assigned position;
(2) Forgery, alteration, falsification, or unauthorized use of university documents, records, timesheets, or identification materials;
(3) Knowingly furnishing false or inaccurate information to the university, whether oral or written, including, but not limited to, providing inaccurate information in support of an application for employment, promotion, or transfer; providing inaccurate information regarding time worked, reporting sick leave when not actually sick or injured, or providing inaccurate information when requesting leave or a workplace accommodation;
(4) The use of force, violence, verbal threat, physical conduct, acts or communications that are intended to bully, harass, intimidate, humiliate, retaliate, or other methods that obstruct the functions of the university, which include teaching, research, administration, public service, presentations by guest lecturers and speakers, and other authorized activities, or that threaten or endanger the health or safety of any person;
(5) Theft of, misuse of, or damage to university property or the property of a member of the university community or campus visitor;
(6) Unauthorized entry to, use of, or possession of university facilities or property;
(7) Unlawful manufacture, distribution, dispensing, possession, or use of a controlled substance, or any substance the possession or distribution of which is regulated by federal or Texas law; and/or the use, possession, or distribution of alcoholic beverages or illegal drugs, including misuse of prescription drugs, while on duty or reporting to work under the influence of such substances;
(8) Refusal to submit to the university's request to an alcohol or drug test;
(9) Behaving in a disorderly manner, use of slurs or hostile epithets, use of abusive or profane language, lewd, indecent, or obscene conduct while on duty, while on university owned or controlled property, or while at a university-sponsored or supervised function;
(10) Insubordination, including showing contempt or disrespect for authority through verbal or written communication or behavior;
(11) Failing to comply with the lawful directions of university officials or failing to follow university or departmental policies and procedures;
(12) Use of university funds for any purpose other than outlined in the legislative guidelines or university or departmental guidelines;
(13) Use of university-owned property to participate in criminal or illegal activity;
(14) Illegal or unauthorized use or possession of weapons, firearms, ammunition, fireworks, explosives, noxious materials, incendiary devices, or other dangerous substances;
(15) Gambling or wagering while on university-owned property or at a university sponsored event;
(16) Intentional sounding of a false fire alarm or false emergency call, issuing a bomb threat, constructing mock explosive devices, or tampering with or removing fire equipment or emergency signs;
(17) Failure to meet financial obligations due Texas Tech;
(18) Unauthorized use of the name, logotype, or symbols of Texas Tech;
(19) Unauthorized absence from work or failure to provide a valid reason for an unscheduled absence or tardiness; excessive tardiness or absence; failure to respond when on call outside regular work schedule; failure to report sick, vacation, or other time away from work as required by university or other departmental policies;
(20) Failure to report to work on a single occasion may result in corrective action up to and including termination. However, in all instances, failure to report to work or notify the supervisor for three (3) consecutive work days will be considered job abandonment and may result in immediate termination;
(21) Willful, deliberate, or repeated violation of university safety rules including, but not limited to refusal or failure to wear safety and protective apparel and/or equipment; failure to follow safety guidelines, instructions, or recommendations of TTU Environmental Health and Safety and its responsible research committees; or unsafe acts which endanger persons or university property;
(22) Failure to protect confidential information;
(23) Academic dishonesty such as plagiarism or giving receiving aid on a test, examination, quiz, or other academic assignment;
c. Criminal Conviction or Probation - All employees, whether faculty, staff, or student are required to notify the university of any criminal conviction or probation, deferred or suspended sentence, whether from a conviction or deferred adjudication, no later than five days after such conviction, deferred adjudication, suspended sentence, or probation, other than for routine traffic offenses, unless one of the employee's job duties includes or involves use of a university vehicle, in which case these also must be reported. Failure to notify the university in a timely manner will constitute misconduct.
d. Ethical Behavior -The ethics policy for Texas Tech employees, OP 10.11, sets also forth requirements regarding:
(1) Standards of conduct
(2) Principles of ethical behavior
(3) Conflict of interest
(5) Benefits, gifts, and honoraria
(6) Political activities
(7) Use of authority
(8) Sexual harassment and discrimination
(10) Affirmative Action
(11) Private use of university facilities, equipment, supplies, and services
e. Each employee of the university will be furnished a copy of the above conduct guidelines as part of the Employee Affidavit and shall be required to abide by its terms as a condition of employment.
5. Corrective Action
a. General Policy
Each administrative officer has the authority and responsibility to establish and maintain an effective, efficient, and orderly workforce of employees. However, when an employee's performance or conduct is not in keeping with the standards expected of a university employee, the administrative officer has the responsibility to investigate the situation so that facts are known and to take actions that provide a means of correction. A Supervisor's Guide to Coaching and Corrective Action is available to assist each administrative officer in the exercise of this charge.
The university encourages, but does not require, the use of coaching and corrective action which is designed to identify performance or conduct that is failing to meet expectations and then allow the employee a reasonable opportunity to improve deficiencies and maintain satisfactory work performance.
It is not necessary to progress through each of the steps in sequence. Some situations may necessitate repetition of certain steps while other situations may call for skipping steps. Each employee situation should be considered based on the facts of the situation. Nothing in this policy relating to corrective action gives any employee a property or other right to any step in the corrective action process, nor does it in any way limit the university's right to terminate an employee for any reason or no reason at all, as long as it is not a reason prohibited by law.
Receiving and acknowledging counseling, performance improvement plans, and corrective action is a condition of employment for all TTU employees.
Employee signatures are required on written counseling, performance improvement plans, and corrective action documents in order for employees to acknowledge they received the document. Refusing to sign the corrective action may result in further corrective action up to and including termination of employment.
The employee may file a letter of response to the supervisor with a copy to Human Resources to be placed in his or her personnel file.
b. Coaching and Corrective Action
Coaching and corrective action are used to encourage the correction of performance deficiencies by providing the employee with knowledge of the deficiencies, with recommended actions that will correct the deficiencies, and with an opportunity to take the actions recommended
Coaching and Corrective Action may include:
(1) Verbal Counseling
If an employee is exhibiting minor deficiencies, verbal counseling may be used to establish an understanding of the work and/or behavioral standards expected by the supervisor. In the event the job performance or behavior does not improve, a summary of the verbal counseling may be used to support further corrective action.
(2) Written Corrective Action
If it is determined that an employee has failed to respond to the verbal counseling, or if the infraction is of a more severe nature that would warrant stronger corrective action, a written corrective action may be given to the employee. The letter should include specific details of the less than acceptable performance or conduct, list any previous discussions or actions regarding the situation, if any, and clearly state expectations with detailed time frames for correction. The employee may file a letter of response to the supervisor with a copy to Human Resources to be placed in his or her personnel file.
(3) Administrative Leave
If a supervisor deems it necessary to release an employee from the workplace pending an investigation or decision regarding a suspected offense, the employee may be placed on leave from duty with or without pay for a prescribed period of time. The employee will remain subject to return to duty at any time during the administrative leave. Approval form Human Resources is required prior to placing an employee on administrative leave.
(4) Suspension without Pay
If misconduct or adverse behavior has continued after a verbal or written counseling or a written letter of corrective action, a suspension without pay may be imposed. For offenses that violate major rules of conduct, suspension without pay may be justified without prior corrective action. The suspension without pay may range from the balance of a shift up to one week.
Suspension without pay must have prior written concurrence of the Assistant Vice President of Human Resources, the appropriate vice president or the Provost/Senior Vice President, or the President prior to the implementation of the suspension. Additionally, if the suspended employee is a member of a protected class under state or federal anti-discrimination laws, prior approval of the managing director of the Equal Employment Opportunity Office is required.
(5) Demotion or Reclassification
An administrative officer may request a demotion or reclassification of an employee in order to reassign the employee to a position where the needs of the department may be met. This may or may not be for corrective reasons.
For non-faculty employees, a written recommendation shall be submitted to the Assistant Vice President of Human Resources providing information to support the action. Written approval of the appropriate vice president or the Provost/Senior Vice President and the Assistant Vice President of Human Resources is required prior to any commitment being made and prior to the effective date of the proposed change of status.
For faculty employees, a written recommendation shall be submitted to the provost providing information to support the action. Written approval of the provost is required prior to any commitment being made and prior to the effective date of the proposed change of status.
Prior approval of the managing director of the Equal Employment Opportunity Office is required if the demoted employee, whether faculty or staff, is a member of a protected class under state or federal law.
(6) Final Letter of Warning
For repeated minor offenses or a serious infraction, an employee may be issued a final letter of warning. A final letter of warning may or may not be issued prior to termination.
5. Involuntary Termination
It is recommended that termination from employment for disciplinary reasons normally be preceded by counseling, written letters of reprimand, and/or leave without pay. However, when the supervisor believes that the employee's behavior will not improve, that the employee ultimately will not be a productive employee, that the conduct involved constitutes a significant violation of university standards of conduct, or when continuation of employment would be detrimental to normal departmental operations, termination without prior corrective action may be warranted. Employees who are terminated are not entitled to wages in lieu of notice, may not be paid wages in lieu of notices, or paid any sort of severance payment without prior approval of the Assistant Vice President of Human Resources, the appropriate vice president, and the office of General Counsel
Before an employee is terminated, a written explanation of the action recommended and the letter of termination to the employee must be submitted to the Assistant Vice President of Human Resources, or designee, and approved by the appropriate vice president or the Provost/Senior Vice President. Prior approval of the Managing Director of the Equal Employment Opportunity Office is also required if the terminated employee is a member of a class protected by state or federal antidiscrimination laws.
The determination of eligibility for re-hire will be the made by the Assistant Vice President of Human Resources. If the employee is classified as upper administration, the Provost/Senior Vice President or the President will be the authority who determines re-hire eligibility.
Nothing in these termination procedures precludes the at-will doctrine.
Involuntary terminations of employees with contracts will be governed by the terms of the contracts. OP 32.02 will govern termination of faculty members.
6. Exhaustion of All Available Leaves
If an employee is absent from work and has exhausted all leaves available to the employee, the department may terminate the employee unless the need for additional leave is related to a disability, a serious health condition covered by the FMLA, or an illness or injury covered by workers' compensation. In this situation, the supervisor should contact HR prior to proceeding with termination of employment
If the need for additional leave is related to a disability, staff employees may request an accommodation from the office of Human Resources or faculty employees may request an accommodation from the Provost's Office. In the event an employee with a disability is requesting additional leave as a reasonable accommodation for his or her disability, Human Resources or the Provost's Office and the Managing Director of the Equal Employment Opportunity Office must approve the termination.
7. Complaints, Grievances, or Appeals
In accordance with the respective policy governing complaints, grievances or appeals, any employee of the university may present a complaint, grievance, or appeal regarding corrective actions, other than termination, to higher authority without retaliatory action being taken against him or her. (See OP 70.10 for non-faculty complaint procedures. See OP 32.05 for faculty complaint procedure. See OP 40.02 for Discrimination & Harassment complaint procedures. See OP 40.03 for Sexual Misconduct complaint procedures.)
A termination cannot be grieved or appealed unless the employee has reason to believe the action taken was prohibited by law.
8. Reduction in Force
A reduction in force will be handled pursuant to the provisions of OP 70.23 and is to be used when a termination is based on reorganization, anticipated decrease in funding, reductions in services, or other reasons deemed appropriate by the President or appropriate vice presidents.
A reduction in force is not to be used as a disciplinary measure to dismiss an employee if the sole cause of dismissal is either misconduct or lack of satisfactory performance.
An employee may resign in good standing by submitting a resignation to the supervising administrative officer at least two calendar weeks prior to the effective date of the resignation.
If an employee is subject to termination, he or she may be given the opportunity to resign in-lieu of termination, but this is not a requirement prior to termination. Such a resignation will be designated as a resignation in-lieu of termination and will not be in good standing. A resignation submitted in-lieu of termination will be effective immediately upon receipt of the verbal or written notification from the employee.
All related forms are available on the Human Resources website:
11. Authoritative Reference
Texas Government Code Sections 556.004 & 572.051
Regents' Rules Sections 03.02 & 07.12.2 c
12. Right to Change Policy
Texas Tech University reserves the right to interpret, change, modify, amend, or rescind this policy, in whole or in part, at any time without the consent of employees.
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