The Catholic University of America

Discipline and Termination

Approved by: The President and his Council
History: Issued -- June 1, 1994
  Revised --
  Additional History
Related Policies:  
Additional References:  
Responsible Official: Associate VP/Chief Human Resources Officer tel. 202-319-5050
 

I.   At Will Employment

All employees covered by this Handbook serve at the pleasure of the University and are considered "at will" employees. In such an "at will" employment relationship, either the employee or employer may terminate the employment relationship at any time without notice. Each party will endeavor to give the other notice, but it is not required. Any termination by the University must be consistent with applicable laws prohibiting discrimination. Initial and renewal appointment forms are budget documents and do not constitute a contract.

II.   Discipline

Job performance and conduct acceptable to the University must be maintained in the work environment. The employee is responsible for learning the norms of professional performance and behavior which are appropriate to the position. For a complete description of the behaviors expected from University employees, refer to HR 6.6.

If an employee does not demonstrate accepted behaviors or maintain satisfactory performance, a supervisor may warn the employee of the need for change through counseling, oral reminders and/or written warnings. However, a pattern of increasingly serious disciplinary measures is not necessary prior to any particular disciplinary action, including termination. Appropriate types of discipline cannot always be anticipated. The facts and circumstances in each case should be considered in the supervisor's determination of an appropriate form of discipline.

Although progressive discipline is not always required, supervisors are responsible for providing feedback to employees and establishing corrective action plans where necessary. Each problem should be evaluated so that the facts of the situation are known and considered before disciplinary measures are imposed or the employee is terminated. When disciplinary action is taken it should be corrective rather than punitive and should be appropriate to the offense. Care should be taken to respect the dignity of the employee in all cases. The Director of Human Resources is available for consultation on appropriate types of discipline. In cases of termination, the Director of Human Resources must be consulted prior to the termination.

For exempt employees who are past the initial evaluation period, any disciplinary action involving withholding of a salary increase, demotion, reassignment to another position, or termination must be approved by the cognizant vice president.

III.   Suspension

In cases of unsatisfactory performance, non-exempt employees must be given a written notice that they have 30 days in which to improve and sustain improvement or they may be discharged from employment. When there is a need to remove an employee from the workplace to conduct an investigation (such as an instance where all of the facts are not immediately available), or to protect the health, safety or welfare of others, the employee may be suspended if, in the judgment of the supervisor, immediate action is required. The suspended employee should be asked to surrender all university property, and, if appropriate, should be advised that, effective at the start of the next working day, pay may be suspended until the situation is reviewed and final action is taken. The Director of Human Resources should be consulted promptly whenever possible before an employee is suspended; such action must be reviewed by the appropriate dean or director and, in the case of a professional employee, by the cognizant vice president.

IV.   Involuntary Termination Process

If a supervisor decides to terminate an employee, the procedure followed in reaching the decision must be reviewed and approved by the Director of Human Resources before the employee is notified.

In cases of unsatisfactory work performance of an employee who is past the initial evaluation period (if such a period is required by position status), a written notice must be given in which the employee has 30 (thirty) days to improve specific work performance issues and sustain the improvement. Such notice should be signed by the employee as acknowledgement of receipt of the warning. Refusal to sign the warning by the employee does not constitute non-receipt. One copy shall be given to the employee and one copy sent to Human Resources to be filed in the individual's personnel file. If after the 30 day improvement period the employee has not made a sustained consistent improvement, the employee may be discharged from employment.

The requirement for a written warning and a 30 day improvement period may be waived where a termination is for: abandonment of position or excessive absenteeism; insubordination or a refusal to perform one's job; misconduct including theft, misuse or misappropriation of University property; unsafe conduct; misrepresentation of hours worked; sexual or racial harassment; or violations of University rules on substance abuse. The requirement, however, can also be waived for any non-discriminatory reason deemed to be sufficient in the discretion of the cognizant vice president and in consultation with the Director of Human Resources.

The written warning requirement does not apply to employees in an initial evaluation period.

All employee terminations must be approved by the Director of Human Resources, the cognizant vice president and reviewed by the General Counsel and the Equal Opportunity Officer.

The University is not required to notify the employee of the decision to terminate prior to the effective date of separation. The employee will be paid his/her salary through the effective date. At any time after notice has been given, the supervisor may relieve the employee from the performance of the duties of his/her position or assign him/her to other duties until the date of separation.

V.    Reduction in Job Force or Job Elimination

In the case of a termination due to elimination of a particular position, the University will attempt to give the employee a minimum of one month's advance notice. Such employees will be encouraged to apply for similar positions within the University. However, the University is not required to provide the employee with another position.

VI.    Separation Pay

An employee who is involuntarily separated due to a reduction in force or job elimination and who has worked continuously as a regular employee for more than one year, will be eligible for separation pay equal to two weeks regular pay. Separation pay will not be made to an employee who is involuntarily separated for reasons other than a reduction in force or job elimination. This policy applies only to positions funded by the University's operating budget and does not apply to positions funded by contracts, grants and similar soft money positions.

VII.    Appeal of Involuntary Termination

When an employee feels he or she has been unfairly terminated, he/she may file an appeal in writing citing the reasons why the termination was unfair to the Director of Human Resources within 10 working days of the termination. The Decision of the Director of Human Resources will be final.

This policy does not apply to those who have been terminated during the initial evaluation period or to employees whose termination is the result of a reduction in force or position elimination.

VIII.    Voluntary Termination or Resignation

A non-exempt employee planning to resign should submit written notice to his or her supervisor at least two weeks before the intended departure. For exempt employees, a month's notice is requested. The notice should state the reason for separation and the last active working day.

When an employee's termination date follows a holiday, the employee must be present at his or her work location the first work day after the holiday in order to be paid for the holiday except in cases of retirement.

IX.     Post-Termination: Voluntary and Involuntary

Non-exempt employees with less than six months' service are not entitled to payment for accumulated unused annual leave. For employees with six months or more of service, payment for accumulated unused annual leave, up to a maximum of twenty-one (21) days, will be made. No payment for unused sick leave will be made.

Professional employees are not paid for unused sick or annual leave upon termination, whether voluntary or involuntary.

Continuing access to participation in health plans is available under circumstances defined by Federal law. The employee is responsible for taking necessary steps concerning taxes, payroll and pension matters, and for requesting any post-termination benefits.

When employment is terminated, an employee must return his/her University identification card, keys, or other property.