"Just Cause" is the guiding principle that the University follows as a public employer whenever we engage in some form of corrective action or progressive discipline for many of our employees. Management may be expected to have "just cause" when disciplining an employee.
The following factors may be considered when evaluating appropriate corrective action or discipline. Please note: these are factors to consider but may not be required to establish just cause.
- Was the employee adequately forewarned that the particular behavior would result in discipline? The warning could have been given either orally or in writing, or in the form of a general work rule. An exception to this may be made in instances of misconduct so severe that the employee is reasonably expected to know that it would be grounds for discipline. (Examples of severe misconduct include, but are not limited to dishonesty, theft or misappropriation of University property, fighting on the job, insubordination or acts endangering others.)
- Was the violated work rule reasonably related to orderly, efficient and safe operations?
- Did management make a fair and objective investigation of the facts prior to administering any discipline? (Note: Where immediate action is required, an employee could be placed on "investigatory leave" pending the outcome of the investigation. Specific provisions regarding "investigatory leave" vary slightly between University personnel policies and various union contracts. Please immediately consult with Employee & Labor Relations when placing an employee on investigatory leave.)
- Is there substantial, persuasive, evidence that the employee has committed the alleged acts? The standard of proof will vary depending on the type of charge involved, however, the evidence cannot consist of mere rumors or unsupported accusations.
- Are management’s rules, orders, and disciplinary action applied in a consistent and non-discriminatory manner? If management has been inconsistent in the past and now wishes to start enforcing the rule, employees must be adequately forewarned. If the rule is intended to apply to all those within a department, division or other work unit, it must then be consistently applied to all affected employees.
- Is the discipline reasonably related to the seriousness of the offense and the employee’s past work record?
Early attention to any problem can reduce the potential of a major conflict developing, and supervisors/managers should contact Employee and Labor Relations to discuss problem situations. The supervisor and employee will not always agree as to what constitutes just cause, and a grievance may result. If the discipline is to be effective, it must be administered in such a way as to sustain a challenge if a grievance or complaint is filed in response.