POLICY 4
DISCIPLINARY ACTION Revised 2/18

SECTION INDEX:    Standards of Conduct

1    Purpose

2    Reference

3    Application

4    Guidance

4.1    Purpose

4.2    Investigation

4.3    Disciplinary Actions

4.4    Investigatory Suspension

4.5    Loudermill/Administrative Meeting

4.6    Appeal

1. PURPOSE

Employment with the City of Olympia is “at will,” unless modified by law, rule or agreement. Every individual employed by the City of Olympia is expected to fully perform the duties and responsibilities of their assigned position in an appropriate manner.

2. REFERENCE

City of Olympia, Policy 20-Standards of Conduct.

3. APPLICATION

This Policy applies to all individuals employed by the City of Olympia, except where specific disciplinary procedures are otherwise established by contract or statute (e.g., civil service rules, collective bargaining agreements, individual employment contract or memorandum of understanding).

4. GUIDANCE

Employment with the City of Olympia is “at will.” “At will” means that the City may terminate an employee or change the terms and conditions of employment at any time, with or without cause and with or without notice and that the employee may leave employment with the City at any time with or without notice to the City. The “at will” status of an employee can only be changed by the City Manager, or designee. The City Manager may change the status through a collective bargaining agreement, an individual employment contract or by any other means the employee deems appropriate after a review of position requirements.

This Policy is designed to assist supervisors who find that disciplinary action is necessary. It is not intended to be prescriptive or in any way restrict how a manager may issue discipline. It is merely illustrative of things a manager may want to consider in determining disciplinary actions.

This policy is not intended to restrict the ability of the City to take whatever action it deems appropriate in any circumstance.

When considering the appropriate disciplinary action, the supervisor may consider the employment history of the employee, the nature of the current offense, what the supervisor hopes to achieve with the discipline, and the appropriate sanction. Although the supervisor may consider progressive disciplinary steps, the nature of the offense shall dictate the seriousness of the sanction and nothing in this Policy shall be used to indicate anything other than the City retains the absolute right to take whatever action it deems appropriate given the circumstances. All disciplinary actions must be taken for legal reasons.

4.1. Purpose

The purpose of disciplinary action is:

a.    To hold employees accountable for violations of State or Federal law, City Policies, Department Policies, performance requirements, rules, regulations and/or standards of conduct for their positions;

b.    To correct problems;

c.    To discourage behavior detrimental to City service; and

d.    To remove from City service employees unwilling or unable to comply with expectations.

4.2. Investigations

The City will conduct investigations it believes are appropriate given the nature of the problem or incident.

4.3. Types of Disciplinary Actions

(The following are merely descriptions of types of discipline and are not intended to dictate any particular process or level for disciplinary action.)

In any disciplinary action, the supervisor is expected to give the appropriate level of discipline to correct the issue and maintain consistency in the workplace. The supervisor is expected to work with Human Resources (HR) on the level of discipline to ensure that the overall function of the City is being supported.

Supervisors and/or HR may conduct investigations to the extent necessary to establish actual facts so the decision-maker can arrive at a logical conclusion. The City Manager may decide to ask for an investigation by an investigator from outside the City if the circumstances warrant. For incidents where minor disciplinary action is anticipated (oral or written reprimands), supervisors will usually conduct the investigation. For incidents where more serious discipline is contemplated, the supervisor, department director, and HR will discuss the appropriate person to do the investigation. In every case, the accused employee will be given the opportunity to present their side before a final decision is made.

a.    Oral Reprimand: An oral reprimand may be appropriate for a minor, first violation of a City or Department Policy. An employee should receive only one oral reprimand for any single, minor violation. Continued violation should result in more serious sanction. An oral reprimand should be documented as such, with the documentation being placed in the employee’s personnel file. Any supervisor may issue and document an oral warning.

b.    Written Reprimand: A written reprimand may be appropriate for more serious yet still relatively minor problems or repeated occurrences of minor problems where an oral reprimand has failed to correct the behavior. A written reprimand should be documented and placed in the employee’s personnel file. Any supervisor can issue a written reprimand.

c.    Suspension Without Pay or Reduction in Pay: Suspension or Reduction in Pay may be appropriate where an employee has 1) committed a serious breach of City or department policy or 2) committed repeat violations of minor problems. Suspensions or reductions in pay require a Personnel Action Form (PAF) to be completed and can only be given by Department Directors. The action will be placed in the employee’s personnel file.

d.    Demotion: Demotion may be appropriate where an employee has committed a serious breach of City or department policy. Demotion for a disciplinary reason shall result in a loss of pay for the employee. The demoted employee will be placed at the same step in the new classification as they held in the prior classification. A demotion requires a PAF to be completed and can only be given by the City Manager or designee. The action will be placed in the employee’s personnel file. Employees who are demoted for disciplinary reasons are required to serve a six-month initial evaluation period in the demoted position.

e.    Last Chance Agreement: At the sole discretion of the City Manager or designee, an employee who has committed a serious violation of law or City or department policy may be given a “last chance” agreement. This Agreement may contain a suspension or demotion in addition to other terms. The action will be placed in the employee’s personnel file.

f.    Termination: An employee who violates City or department policy may be terminated for a single serious act of misconduct, or for continued violations that have been repeated after other forms of discipline have been imposed. The City Manager or designee is the only person who can terminate an employee. The termination paperwork will be placed in the employee’s personnel file.

4.4. Investigatory Suspension

A paid investigatory suspension may be used when it is considered prudent to remove the employee from work while an investigation is being conducted to determine if disciplinary action is justified. The department director shall authorize the paid investigatory suspension. The supervisor will notify the employee in writing that the employee is being placed on investigatory suspension. The written notification shall clearly state the reason for the suspension and the nature of the investigation. The documentation concerning the paid investigatory suspension will be place in the employee’s personnel file. At the conclusion of the investigation, the employee will either be returned to work or notified of the disciplinary action to be taken.

4.5. Loudermill/Administrative Meeting

A Loudermill or administrative meeting occurs after the investigation has been completed and the department director has made a preliminary decision on the appropriate level of discipline.

After reading the investigatory report, the department director needs to decide if they believe that discipline may be appropriate given the facts and circumstances investigated. If the department director believes discipline may be appropriate and the disciplinary action might be a suspension, reduction in pay, demotion or termination of the employee, then the department director needs to work with Human Resources prior to making a final decision. Human resources staff will advise the department director of additional steps necessary to comply with legal requirements, if any, prior to issuing discipline. Those steps might include: 1) providing the employee with the investigatory report and any other information gathered in the investigation, and 2) after a reasonable time for the employee to review the investigation (3-5 days) meeting with the employee to allow the employee a chance to persuade the department director that either the finding of misconduct is incorrect or the penalty is too harsh. If the above steps are necessary, the employee may be accompanied by Union representatives (normally no more than 2 people) or if they are not represented by a Union, by an individual of their choice. If there is a meeting, it is intended to give the employee an opportunity to talk with the department director about the alleged misconduct, so the participation by the Union or anyone other than the employee should be somewhat limited (the meeting is intended to give the employee a last chance to change the department director’s mind, so usually the employee should be presenting their reasons to the department director). It is up to the department director whether they ask any questions or seeks clarification of information during the meeting.

4.6. Appeal

An at-will employee who has been subject to discipline has no automatic appeal right. However, an “at-will” employee may be entitled to a “name clearing” (a meeting where the employee would address the allegations and provide information or mitigation to the department director prior to a final decision), meeting with the department director or City Manager. The department director should consult with HR about the need for such a meeting. At the sole discretion of the City Manager, the City Manager may meet with an employee who has been disciplined to discuss the disciplinary action.

Revision history: February 2018; May 2016; October 2013; September 2011; May 1990. Superseded: Administrative Guideline Disciplinary Action”.