Employee Relations

The Employee Relations Policy outlines the steps that supervisors should take to immediately address critical work performance and behavioral issues. The steps included in this Policy are not intended as rigid procedural requirements that must be applied in every situation. Instead, the steps are intended to establish guidelines to help supervisors ensure staff members consistently meet expectations.

The Employee Relations Policy offers guidance for managing critical job performance and behavioral issues that require immediate or ad hoc attention beyond that afforded within the context of the annual performance appraisal and goal setting process.

In many cases, it may be difficult to discern whether work performance or corrective disciplinary action should be used to manage an employee relations matter. In such cases, supervisors are encouraged to consult a Human Resources Generalist or the Director of Labor and Employee Relations. And finally, this Policy only applies to regular full-time and part-time employees in non-union positions below grade 13, who have completed their probationary periods.

I. WORK PERFORMANCE

At Brown University, we encourage supervisors and managers to set clear expectations for acceptable work performance. We further encourage the use of informal feedback as an initial way to correct unsatisfactory work performance. As described more fully below, if informal feedback does not correct a problem, more formal measures should be taken to improve the staff member's work performance. The steps described in this section apply to all regular full-time and part-time employees in non-union positions below grade 13, who have completed their probationary periods.

All steps outlined in this section of the Employee Relations Policy should be considered after consulting with the Director of Labor and Employee Relations or a Human Resources Generalist. This is not a rigid process. In this regard, steps may be omitted or repeated depending on the frequency, severity and/or nature of the work performance concern. The University reserves the right to discipline, suspend, or discharge employees, or take any other appropriate action necessary, to protect the rights and safety of members of the Brown Community regardless of any University policy.

Nothing contained in this section is intended to alter the at-will employment relationship between the University and its employees or to create legally enforceable contractual rights.

A. INFORMAL FEEDBACK

Supervisors have a responsibility to reinforce and clarify work expectations for staff members. Employees should be given timely, balanced, and constructive feedback identifying areas in which performance meets or exceeds expectations, as well as those issues that require improvement. Supervisors are encouraged to use coaching and counseling because it often corrects unacceptable work performance and avoids the need for more formal measures.

1. Coaching

Supervisors should coach staff members by providing informal but specific guidance, instruction and/or training to reinforce and clarify work expectations. Supervisors should remember to document when and why he/she has coached a staff member about his/her work performance and should maintain documentation of coaching in their personal files. Please note that the staff member does not receive written documentation of coaching.

2. Counseling

If coaching does not solve the problem, supervisors should counsel staff members. Counseling consists of a more explicit explanation of the work performance concern. It should also reinforce and clarify work performance expectations. Supervisors should provide written confirmation of the details of the counseling session, including the specifics of the expected level of performance (e.g., an email summarizing the discussion) to the staff member. Supervisors should maintain a copy of the written confirmation in their personal files.

If informal coaching and counseling fail to solve the problem, supervisors, after consulting with the Director of Labor and Employee Relations and/or a Human Resources Generalist, should initiate formal measures to correct the problem.

B. FORMAL PERFORMANCE MANAGEMENT MEASURES

1. Written Notice of Performance Expectations

Written Notice of Performance Expectations is generally the first formal written document/measure in the performance management process. It is a document designed to explicitly communicate performance issues and job expectations as well as the consequences of failing to meet expectations.

Written Notice of Performance Expectations should:

• Describe the desired performance standards;
• Describe the staff member's work performance gaps using specific illustrative examples;
• Describe the steps the staff member must take to meet his/her work performance expectations;
• Explicitly communicate the need for immediate and sustained improvement;
• Establish regularly scheduled meetings with the staff member and the supervisor to ensure an ongoing dialogue about performance expectations; and
• Notify the staff member that his/her job "may be in jeopardy" if his/her work performance does not improve.

Please note that Written Notice of Performance Expectations may also be used outside of the scope of the Performance Management Policy to clarify job responsibilities when:

• A staff member's duties have changed as a result of a departmental reorganization;
• A new work process has been introduced; or
• A staff member is assigned to a project that includes new job duties and responsibilities or is assigned to a new supervisor.

Written Notice of Performance Expectations must be issued only after consulting with the Director of Labor and Employee Relations and/or a Human Resources Generalist.

2. Performance Improvement Plan

As a general rule, a Performance Improvement Plan (PIP) is used to clearly and explicitly communicate to staff members when their work performance has not sufficiently improved following their receipt of Written Notice of Performance Expectations. A PIP should provide clear notice to the staff member that his/her employment is in jeopardy and failure to demonstrate immediate and sustained improvement will result in termination from the University. It also establishes a time line (usually 30 to 90 days) during which the staff member's performance must improve and be sustained at an acceptable level. This period should include regular meetings (weekly or bi-weekly) between the staff member and the supervisor to review problems, concerns and/or answer questions that may arise about work performance. At or near the end of the PIP period, the staff member must be offered a progress report as well as a decision as to whether his/her performance has sufficiently improved to be retained in the current position.

A PIP should:
• Identify specific details of the issue or concern;
• Explain how the performance (or action) is falling short of expectations;
• Detail expectations for improvement and the corresponding time-frame;
• Identify measurements, resources, and support for the employee to improve performance;
• Include a statement that if the unacceptable performance continues, or other problems occur, the staff member will be terminated.
If the staff member either does not take steps to improve performance within the time period stated in the PIP and/or does not demonstrate immediate and sustained improvement, the department is required to consult with a Human Resources Generalist or the Director of Labor and Employee Relations prior to the termination of his/her employment.

New and/or serious performance concerns that arise during the PIP period may result in escalation of the performance management process including, but not limited to, discipline or immediate termination after consultation with a Human Resources Generalist or the Director of Labor and Employee Relations.

PIPs must be issued in consultation with the Director of Labor and Employee Relations and/or a Human Resources Generalist.

3. Termination

If a staff member's work performance does not improve following adequate notice of the area(s) of concern as well as a sufficient opportunity to improve upon the same, his/her employment with the University will be terminated. The Director of Labor and Employee Relations must pre-approve involuntary terminations.

II. CORRECTIVE DISCIPLINARY ACTION
At Brown University, we encourage the use of informal measures to correct unacceptable behavior. As described more fully below, if informal feedback does not correct the problem, more formal corrective measures should be used.

The Corrective Disciplinary steps in this section apply to all regular full-time and part-time employees in non-union positions below grade 13, who have completed their probationary periods and should be used to correct misconduct and/or failure to comply with departmental or University policy.

Examples of unacceptable behavior include, but are not limited to, tardiness, absenteeism, and/or failure to meet work-related reporting requirements. Corrective action for unacceptable behavior is normally imposed on a progressive basis; however, it is not a rigid process. In this regard, steps may be omitted or repeated depending on the frequency, severity, and/or nature of the behavior. For example, in instances of serious misconduct, immediate termination of employment may be appropriate.

All steps outlined in this section of the Employee Relations Policy should be considered in consultation with the Director of Labor and Employee Relations or a Human Resources Generalist. The University reserves the right to discipline, suspend, or discharge employees or take any other appropriate action necessary to protect the rights and safety of members of the Brown Community regardless of any University policy.

Nothing contained in this section is intended to alter the at-will employment relationship between the University and its employees or to create legally enforceable contractual rights.

A. INFORMAL FEEDBACK

Supervisors are encouraged to use counseling throughout the year as an informal means to correct unacceptable behavior. Our goal is to correct unacceptable behavior with counseling before more formal measures are necessary. Please note that egregious acts of misconduct or violations of policy should not be addressed using informal corrective disciplinary measures; instead, such matters should be immediately addressed with formal measures after consulting with the Director of Labor and Employee Relations and/or a Human Resources Generalist.

1. Coaching

Supervisors should coach staff members who engage in behavior that is unacceptable, but does not necessarily warrant counseling. For example, supervisors should coach staff members to address the first time they report late for work. With that said supervisors should remember to document when and why he/she has coached a staff member. Supervisors should maintain documentation of coaching in their personal critical incident files. Please note that the staff member does not receive written documentation of coaching.

2. Counseling

If coaching does not solve the problem, supervisors should counsel staff members. For example, supervisors should counsel staff members to address the second time they report late for work. Counseling consists of an explicit explanation of the unacceptable behavior, why it is unacceptable and the consequences of the staff member's failure to correct the unacceptable behavior. Supervisors should provide written confirmation to the staff member reiterating the details of the counseling session (e.g., email confirmation of the counseling session). Supervisors should maintain documentation of counseling in their personal files.

If informal counseling fails to solve the problem, supervisors, in consultation with the Director of Labor and Employee Relations or a Human Resources Generalist should initiate formal corrective disciplinary measures to correct the unacceptable behavior.

B. FORMAL CORRECTIVE MEASURES

1. Written Warning

A written warning is appropriate when a staff member has failed to correct unacceptable behavior after being counseled. A written warning may also be appropriate to address a first offense if a staff member knowingly violates a University policy or engages in more serious behavior.

In general, the written warning should:
• Describe the standard for acceptable behavior;
• Describe and/or provide examples of the unacceptable behavior;
• Reference prior counseling that addressed similar behavior;
• Outline the University's expectations moving forward; and
• Notify the staff member failure to correct the problem will result in further discipline, up to and including termination.

Written warnings must be issued only after consulting with the Director of Labor and Employee Relations and/or a Human Resources Generalist.

2. Final Written Warning

A final written warning is a staff member's last chance to correct unacceptable behavior. A final written warning is appropriate to address recurring offenses that continue despite prior counseling and warnings (e.g., chronic absenteeism or tardiness), egregious behavior and/or serious violations of policy.

In general, a final written warning should:
• Describe and/or provide examples of the unacceptable behavior;
• Reference prior coaching, counseling and written warnings that addressed similar behavior;
• Describe the University's expectations moving forward; and
• Notify the staff member failure to correct the problem will result in further discipline, up to and including termination.

Final written warnings must be issued only after consulting with the Director of Labor and Employee Relations and/or a Human Resources Generalist.

3. Termination
If after receiving a final written warning, the staff member's unacceptable behavior persists, his/her employment with the University should be terminated.

Please also note that a staff member's employment may be terminated without prior counseling or warnings in certain circumstances.

Such circumstances may include, but are not limited to:
• Grossly unethical, inappropriate, and/or criminal behavior (e.g., misuse of University funds, release of confidential information, acts of workplace violence, etc…);
• Actions or behavior that have a severe negative impact on the department's or the University's credibility (e.g., violation of the University's Conflict of Interest Policy);
• Inability or unwillingness to adhere to conditions of employment (e.g., I-9 verification);
• Misrepresentation of facts (e.g., educational qualifications, criminal record, etc...); and
• Severe disregard for University policy (e.g., sexual harassment, failure to comply with safety and environmental regulations).

The Director of Labor and Employee Relations must pre-approve involuntary terminations. Employees who are involuntarily terminated (except those serving probationary periods and/or those holding positions in grade 13 or above and those "working at the pleasure of the President") are eligible to invoke the Problem Resolution Process (HR Policy No. 20.071) within ten working days of notification of termination.

No severance pay is awarded when employment is involuntarily terminated under the circumstances listed above.

III. DOCUMENTATION GUIDELINES

Documentation of the formal performance management and corrective disciplinary measures in Sections II and III above should be placed in an employee's personnel file in Human Resources. When or if documentation of a formal corrective disciplinary and/or performance management measure should be removed from an employee's personnel file should be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. Materials that document informal measures (coaching and counseling) should not be placed in an employee's personnel file. Instead, supervisors should maintain such documentation in their critical incident files.

IV. DISTINCTION BETWEEN PERFORMANCE MANAGEMENT AND CORRECTIVE DISCIPLINE

Supervisors frequently ask when to use performance management or corrective disciplinary action. As a general rule, corrective disciplinary action is used to correct behavior that we can reasonably expect the employee to correct immediately and with little, if any, training or follow-up. By contrast, performance management is designed to address performance issues that may require time, clarification, and training to correct. In many cases, it may be difficult to discern whether performance management or corrective disciplinary action should be used to manage an employee relations matter. In such cases, supervisors are encouraged to consult with their assigned Human Resources Generalist.

V. PROBATIONARY PERIOD EMPLOYEES

Probationary periods allow the University with an opportunity to closely assess newly hired staff members' performance and suitability for their new positions. During their probationary periods, new staff members may be terminated without notice and/or prior warnings without regard to the procedures outlined in Sections I and II above. Probationary terminations must be reviewed and approved by the Director of HR Services.

For more information about the Probationary Period, refer to Human Resources Policy No. 20.062, Probationary Period.

VI. REFERRAL TO THE FACULTY/STAFF ASSISTANCE PROGRAM

If a supervisor believes a staff member's performance or behavior is being adversely impacted by personal matters, the supervisor may refer the staff member to the Faculty/Staff Assistance Program. In certain limited circumstance, a staff member may be required to contact the Faculty/Staff Assistance Program and comply with any recommended treatment as a condition of continued employment. The Director of Labor and Employee Relations must approve any such requirement.