Legal Reference

Alternative discipline involves taking action in lieu of traditional discipline to correct misconduct without resorting to more costly formal procedures and litigation. Agency policies vary, but alternative discipline typically is used when a formal penalty would be more minor in nature, for example a reprimand or a suspension of 14 days or less.

The goal of alternative discipline is to positively change an employee’s conduct by offering an alternative means of correcting misconduct. There is usually no need for an exhaustive investigation, the management preparation and documentation of adverse action proposals and decisions, together with the employee preparation and presentation of replies and possible costs of representation, are diminished, and potential grievance, complaint, or appeal proceedings are avoided.

In typical alternative discipline procedures, the super¬visor will conduct fact-finding and then make an initial determination as to what type of traditional disciplinary action is appropriate and whether the appropriate penalty is suitable for alternative discipline. Working with the human resources and/or other departments, management drafts an agreement describing the misconduct and outlining the conditions to be met by the employee. The employee will be given an opportunity to provide input into the wording of the agreement in the sections on description of offense, the severity of the traditional disciplinary action that the agreement replaces, and the commitment to improving future conduct. The employee’s representative, if any, may be present.

Agreements may include provisions such as:

• A statement that the employee voluntarily elects to enter into the agreement.
• Identification of the formal traditional discipline for which the agreement substitutes.
• A description of the misconduct.
• A statement that the employee admits engaging in the misconduct as described.
• A statement of how the employee will improve his or her future conduct.
• A statement that the agreement is in lieu of an official reprimand or a proposed suspension (or a suspension decision when no proposal is required) of specified length.
• A statement that, should further misconduct occur, the agreement will constitute a prior disciplinary action that may be considered as part of any future disciplinary action.
• A statement that there will be no SF-50 implement¬ing the agreement, that the agreement will be filed and maintained in the disciplinary action case file (rather than in the employee’s Official Personnel Folder) in the servicing personnel office for a given period and that, when the agreement is in lieu of a suspension, no loss of pay will occur.
• A waiver of all rights to grieve, file a discrimination complaint, or otherwise contest the agreement, but a retention of the right to contest any violation of the agreement by management and any future disciplinary action taken against the employee.
• An advisement that, if the employee believes that his or her misconduct is in any way due to the problem of a personal nature, the employee may take advantage of the confidential counseling services of the Employee Assistance Program.

The employee is given a period of time to accept or reject the agreement. If the employee rejects the offer, the supervisor will document on the agreement that the offer was made and may proceed with traditional discipline. If the employee agrees, the agreement will be signed and be binding on both parties per its terms.