FEDweek

Conduct-Based Discipline

An employee may be disciplined for misconduct that adversely affects the efficiency of the federal service, under 5 CFR 752. Conduct problems typically stem from employees who fail to comply with the writ¬ten and unwritten rules of the workplace. Common examples of employee misconduct for which discipline might be appropriate are:

• absence from work without approved leave;
• leave abuse or other time and attendance problems;
• misuse of government equipment;
• disrupting the office with aggressiveness and abusive behavior, affecting the morale and performance of others;
• insubordination;
• negligent or careless work performance;
• failure or delay in carrying out assignments; and
• concealing or attempting to conceal defective work.

Penalties for misconduct range from admonishments/warnings (oral or written), to reprimands (oral or writ¬ten), short suspensions (14 calendar days or less), long suspensions (more than 14 calendar days), demotions or removal. Several factors come into play in determining an appropriate penalty. Included among them are the basic concepts of corrective, progressive discipline. That is, penalties must be selected with an eye to applying the minimum discipline likely to be necessary to correct the offense.

Second, you must also consider fairness and consistency. Penalties should be reasonably consistent with the discipline imposed in similar situations against employees with similar records. This means that you carefully weigh a number of things in determining how severe a disciplinary penalty should be, including: nature and severity of the offense; the employee’s previous record; the employee’s potential for rehabilitation; penalties imposed on other employees in similar situations; and penalty guidelines.

It is wise to maintain documentation of any misconduct that occurred and the negative impact it had on the employee’s work or that of other employees, and be able to show that you considered the employee’s side of the story before making the decision.

If an employee is exhibiting conduct problems that are not so serious as to warrant immediate disciplinary action, there are steps that a supervisor may take, short of official disciplinary action, to help that employee to improve.