P206 Progressive Discipline Guidelines


P206.1 It is the philosophy of San Francisco State University and the California State University system, in conformance with the California Education Code, Title 5, and Collective Bargaining Agreements, to follow a program of progressive discipline when an employee fails to meet the required standards of performance. Progressive discipline establishes a process of clear, timely, consistent, and documented communications with an employee designed to ensure an understanding of job expectations, provide an opportunity to correct behavior, improve performance, and assure "due process". The process begins with a job description, appropriate training, communication of work rules, and regular performance evaluations.

P206.2 The goal of progressive discipline is to modify specific behavior or to improve performance.The goal is not to punish the employee, but to alert the employee to the need to correct specific behavior.

P206.3Progressive discipline actions taken by SFSU administrators, deans, or unit heads shall remain confidential.

P206.4 Effective performance is acknowledged through verbal reinforcement, written performance evaluations outlining specific examples of accomplishments and contributions, and recommendations for salary increases. (Refer to HR Practice Directive #P530 for Performance Evaluation and #P300 for Compensation).

P206.5Poor performance should be addressed through a progressive pattern of pre-discipline and formal discipline. Pre-discipline includes special performance evaluations, counseling, verbal and written warnings, and letters of reprimand. Formal discipline includes suspensions without pay or demotion, and finally dismissal. This progressive pattern of discipline is designed to ensure proper communication between supervisor/administrator and employee, to provide an opportunity to reinforce appropriate behavior, and to correct unsatisfactory employee performance.


P206.6 These guidelines apply to all staff employees covered by collective bargaining agreements and to employees in designated confidential positions. These guidelines do not apply to individuals hired as faculty, employees hired as administrators in the Management Personnel Plan (MPP) or those in excluded classifications, e.g., student assistants, work-study, special consultants, etc. '

P206.7Where the provisions of this policy and procedure are in conflict with the collective bargaining agreements reached pursuant to Chapter 12, (commencing with Section 3560) of Division 4 of Title I of the Government Code, the collective bargaining agreements shall take precedence. Additionally, the Public Safety Officers’ Procedural Bill of Rights shall pertain in cases where applicable.


P206.8At SFSU, the president has delegated authority to impose formal disciplinary action in the form of suspensions, demotions and dismissal to the cabinet level officers (appropriate vice president). Recommendations for such disciplinary actions are submitted by the dean to a Human Resources or Employee Relations officer.

P206.9 The appropriate administrator (designated within the Management Personnel Plan) is responsible for initiating disciplinary action(s). Pre-disciplinary action, which includes counseling, oral and written warning(s), and letter(s) of reprimand, may be taken with or without consulting a Human Resources or Employee Relations officer. Formal disciplinary action, which includes suspension or demotion and dismissal, requires consultation with a Human Resources or Employee Relations officer and the concurrence of the cabinet level officer.

P206.10Immediate formal disciplinary action may be implemented in instances of serious misconduct where there is a clear and present danger to the university or its members. Such misconduct may include, but not be limited to, dishonesty, including fraud in securing employment, theft, misappropriation of University property or funds, acts endangering the health and safety of others, immoral conduct, and conviction of a felony or misdemeanor involving moral turpitude. In such instances, an employee may be temporarily suspended with pay for reasons related to a) the safety of persons or property; or b) the prevention of the disruption of programs and/or operations, or c) investigation for formal disciplinary action.

P206.11 Typically, progressive discipline is implemented for ongoing failure or refusal to perform the normal and reasonable duties of the position, which includes, but is not limited to unsatisfactory performance, excessive absenteeism, tardiness, work rule violations, insubordination, or unprofessional conduct that may include verbal abuse toward another employee.

P206.12Employees should be advised of their right to consult with a union or personal representative prior to any discussion that could adversely affect working conditions or employment status.

P206.13For employees with temporary or probationary status, in cases where dismissal is requested prior to the end date established for a temporary position or where rejection during probation is requested, normally at least one performance evaluation shall be conducted prior to the midpoint of the temporary appointment or probationary period, identifying areas and behavior needing improvement and time shall be provided to improve performance prior to dismissal. Where stipulated in collective bargaining agreements, performance evaluations should be administered according to the provisions contained therein.

P206.14Issues to consider prior to initiating progressive discipline:

a.Have an accurate, comprehensive position description, clearly written performance expectations, and adequate training been provided to the employee?

b. Are the standards of employee performance and rules of employee conduct being applied fairly and equitably? Have all employees demonstrating similar deficient behavior or violating similar rules been treated alike?

c.Has information regarding performance expectations and deficient behavior been communicated regularly? Have written records been maintained of counseling meetings? Has the employee been provided the opportunity to respond? Has the progressive disciplinary action been initiated in a timely, consistent, and confidential manner?

d. Does the University have a written guideline concerning the behavior, and was the employee given a copy?

P206.15Counseling is normally the initial step in the progressive discipline process.Problems should be identified and discussed with the employee in a confidential manner.The appropriate supervisor, administrator, or unit head should seek input from the employee about the cause of the problem, and solutions should be identified and agreed upon. Follow up should be provided, and the employee should be advised of progress made in solving the problem.The purpose of counseling is to bring the problem to the employee’s attention before it becomes so serious that it must become part of a written warning placed in the employee’s file. This process may be repeated prior the initiation of a written warning or reprimand.

P206.16 Verbal and written warnings and reprimands are intended to constitute informal notice to the employee of a specific behavior that needs to be corrected. Oral and written warnings are not submitted to the Human Resources Department or placed in the official personnel file, but may go in a file as documentation for subsequent actions. A warning should describe the problem, indicate expected behavior, and outline the consequence for failure to correct the behavior. The administrator should maintain a record of the date and content of all conversations with an employee where a warning has been given and should retain copies of any written warnings. Administrators should prepare a memo to file documenting verbal warnings and conversations when improvements to performance have been addressed.

P206.17Written warnings or reprimands are initiated only when counseling fails to produce the desired result.The problem should be clearly stated, the steps to correct the problem must be clearly identified, and a meeting should be held with the employee to discuss the steps necessary to correct the identified performance deficiency.This process may be repeated with stronger consequence statements, including the statement that failure to correct this situation may lead to further disciplinary action.

P206.18For dismissal of an employee in a temporary or probationary appointment, the appropriate administrator shall prepare and submit a memo to a Human Resources or Employee Relations officer requesting dismissal and outlining the deficient performance, as well as the steps that have been taken to communicate with the employee regarding the improvements needed. The Human Resources or Employee Relations officer shall prepare a notice to the employee either ending the temporary appointment or rejecting him/her during probation. A copy of the request for dismissal from the appropriate administrator shall be attached to the notice. Normally, the employee shall be provided with two weeks’ notice or pay in lieu of notice. If the employee has permanent status in another classification, the employee has the right to return to the classification in which he/she has permanent status. In such cases, the employee shall normally be reassigned to a position within the same cabinet area.

For more information concerning employee rights regarding probationary appointments and rejection during probation, refer to Human Resources’ Supervisor’s Step-by-Step Probationary Guide.

P206.19For employees with permanent status, except as specified in paragraph 206.8, the progressive discipline process shall occur prior to dismissal.The process may include discussions with the employee, unsatisfactory performance evaluations, and verbal and written warning(s), letter(s) of reprimand, suspension, and/or demotion.

P206.20Written reprimands shall be given by the appropriate Management Personnel Plan administrator to the employee, and shall be forwarded to the Human Resources Department for inclusion in the employee’s personnel file. Since all personnel decisions regarding formal disciplinary action must be based on material contained in the employee’s official personnel file, all deficient behavior should be carefully documented and all written reprimands must be clearly articulated. The written reprimand must be clearly identified as a written reprimand (e.g., Letter of Reprimand - Performance or Letter of Reprimand - Attendance) and must state that a copy of the reprimand is to be placed in the employee’s personnel file (e.g., cc: Personnel File). The written reprimand should contain, but is not limited to, the following:

a.What did the employee do? Clearly identify the specific conduct deemed deficient and describe the conduct in complete and explicit terms using plain language. Include dates, names, places, events, witnesses, etc. Supplement general statements with specific examples to provide a proper factual foundation. The document should be a self-contained record; it should be fully understood by a third person unfamiliar with the employee’s unsatisfactory conduct. A third person should be able to understand what the employee did that created the problem based upon reading the document, without having to refer to any other information source.

b.How did the behavior violate a performance expectation/rule? Include the rule, authority, and/or expectation relating to the deficient behavior, such as CSU policies or campus procedures, collective bargaining provisions, job descriptions, written work rules or written administrative memos/instructions/directives. Often, it will be necessary to translate the problem into a recognized performance expectation, especially when the unsatisfactory behavior is not directly tied to a clearly defined written standard or expectation. This type of behavior may involve attitude and cooperation, job efficiency and accuracy, and adequate job skill levels. Examples include discourteous conduct, poor professional judgment, job carelessness, and disruptive behavior. Where the inappropriate behavior has previously occurred, a notation should be made of the prior violation and resulting action, if any.

c.What is the impact of the employee’s conduct? Cite the adverse effect of the employee’s conduct on university operations and other persons especially where negative public notoriety occurs. Examples include: lack of dependability; unnecessary shift of duties to other employee; lack of continuity and consistency; unnecessary expenditure of supervisory time; interference in normal procedures causing delay in the completion of work; exposure to personal injury and university liability; destruction or damage to property and repair costs; and lack of compliance with required timelines.

d.What does the employee need to do to improve? Provide specific suggestions and/or directives for the employee to meet job requirements. Outline directions regarding the proper behavior or level of performance expected in the future. It is important to be clear and unequivocal and to include the effective timelines and the consequence(s) if the employee fails to comply (e.g., further disciplinary action will occur that may result in dismissal, etc.). In other words, the employee must know what must be done to correct deficient performance or behavior and when and what will happen if the performance is not corrected. The description of the behavior must be unambiguous, easy to understand, and as complete as possible. Identify any assistance that the employee may require to meet job requirements such as additional training, equipment, etc.

e.What rights does the employee have in connection with the disciplinary action? The employee has a right to receive a copy of any document(s) including a letter of reprimand that could lead to an adverse personnel action prior to their placement in the employee’s official personnel file (five days prior to placement for Unit 4). The employee may in turn submit a response to these documents that must be included in the employee’s official personnel file according to the provisions of the collective bargaining agreement in effect at the time.The employee also has the right to review his/her personnel file and obtain copies of all materials contained within it. When preparing a letter of reprimand, state at the bottom of the letter that a copy will be placed in the official personnel file and that the employee may submit a response. The employee may request a conference with the appropriate administrator to discuss the reprimand, may be represented at the conference by another employee or union representative and may request a review of the reprimand at the next level of supervision.

In summary, employees have the (1) right to union or personal representation; (2) right to be given the facts; i.e., to know the facts giving rise to the disciplinary action; (3) right to a hearing on the matter; (4) right to receive copies of all materials upon which the action is based; (5) right to appeal to a reviewing officer; and (6) right to file an appeal with the State Personnel Board.

P206.21 Consultation with a Human Resources or Employee Relations officer is required prior to the submission of recommendations for formal disciplinary action (demotion, suspension and dismissal). The recommendation shall document prior counseling, warnings, written reprimands and prior discipline, and shall include all supporting documentation, e.g., attendance records, copies of written reprimands. The documentation must describe the deficient behavior, identify the impact to the department, outline what actions have been taken prior to the recommendation to communicate with the employee about the deficient behavior and efforts made concerning the correction of behavior and include the names of witnesses if appropriate to the deficient behavior.

P206.22 Where the deficient behavior is believed to be illegal or serious misconduct as outlined in 206.08, the appropriate administrator shall immediately notify the Chief of University Police, a Human Resources or Employee Relations officer, the University counsel and auditor, if appropriate.

P206.23A Human Relations or Employee Relations officer shall review the request for the formal disciplinary action, and shall forward a recommendation with all supporting documentation and employee notification to the appropriate Cabinet Level Officer for signature.

P206.24Upon signature, the Human Resources or Employee Relations officer shall either forward the notice to the appropriate administrator to be served on the employee in person, arrange for personal service, or send the notice of formal disciplinary action to the employee by certified mail at the employee’s last known address.The notice shall contain information regarding employee rights, including the right to consult their union or personal representative.

P206.25Within five (5) days of receiving the notice of formal disciplinary action, the employee may provide a written statement and/or, by appointment, an oral statement, requesting a review by a Reviewing Officer appointed by the President or designee. The Reviewing Officer shall review all pertinent documentation and is empowered to affirm, modify or withdraw the notice.

P206.26Within thirty (30) days of receiving the notice of formal disciplinary action, the employee may appeal to the State Personnel Board.

P206.27If an employee requests a State Personnel Board Hearing, the Human Resources or Employee Relations officer shall notify the appropriate administrator and the appropriate union regarding the hearing, and shall assist the University counsel with necessary case preparation and presentation.

P206.28When not provided specifically by collective bargaining provisions, letters of reprimand may be removed from the official personnel file upon the employee’s request after three (3) years from its effective date. If formal disciplinary action has been initiated and the reprimand is related to the action, the letter will not be removed. Nothing in this provision shall prohibit earlier removal of the reprimand upon mutual agreement by the administrator and employee.

Revised:March 2004