Know Your Contract – Discipline and Dismissal

13 Jun Know Your Contract – Discipline and Dismissal

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  • UICUF’s new contract strengthens due process for NTT faculty
  • Discipline must be for cause, and must follow the steps outlined in the contract
  • By law, you have the right to union representation. Don’t forget your Weingarten Rights!
  • This entry refers to Article XIV of the NTT contract. TT disciplinary rules can be found in the TT contract and UI Statutes

 

In recent contract negotiations, UICUF was able to negotiate stronger and clearer protections for due process in disciplinary proceedings.  For the purposes of this article, we will be focusing on the NTT faculty rights defined in our contract, as well as the universally applicable Weingarten Right to union representation. TT faculty’s rights regarding discipline and dismissal follow the guidelines described in TT contract, and the university statutes.

While the vast majority of faculty will never have to worry about discipline and dismissal processes, UICUF strongly encourages our members to know their rights, starting with the right to representation. Below, we explain language used  in the contract, and answer some of the most common questions, however, this article is not meant to exhaustively address rights, procedures, or outcomes in disciplinary proceedings. If you are facing disciplinary action, we highly recommend you contact us ASAP at UICUnitedFaculty@gmail.com for assistance.  

What Should I Do If I Think I’m Being Disciplined?
The most important thing to do if you are, or think you are, being disciplined is to assert your Weingarten Rights. These rights, upheld by national labor law, assert that you are entitled to union representation in “investigatory meetings,” meaning meetings that may lead to disciplinary action. You can download a printable “Weingarten Card” with an appropriate statement to assert these rights, and keep it in your workspace if desired.

Beyond this, we recommend members keep detailed notes of any disciplinary circumstance, and contact UICUF ASAP at UICUnitedFaculty@gmail.com.

What Can and Can’t I Be Disciplined For?
Owing to the exceptional diversity in how departments are run and the nature of work conducted within each department, our contract does not explicitly address what conduct might constitute an infraction. Department bylaws, UI Statutes, state policies, etc., may inform proper and improper conduct, but whether discipline is being applied appropriately can only truly be determined on a case-by-case basis.

What Does “Positive Progressive Discipline” Mean?
Positive Progressive Discipline is now clearly defined in our contract to mean:

“discipline intended to correct deficiencies when possible… a reasonable process under the circumstances is required to impose discipline for just cause. Progressive discipline is based on the idea that as offenses occur appropriate discipline will be administered in a progressive manner.”

So discipline should be “positive” meaning corrective rather than solely punitive, and it should be progressive, meaning it follows appropriate steps (see below for steps). Only in extreme cases may discipline be applied in a manner that is not positive and progressive.

What Disciplinary Steps Are My Administrators Required To Follow?
Per the new contract, your administrators must follow clearly defined steps in a disciplinary process, barring extreme circumstances. These steps are designed to protect faculty’s right to due process, and to ensure that faculty understand when discipline is being applied and why.

The steps are (1) verbal counseling, (2) letter of warning, (3) suspension, and (4) dismissal. You may assert your right to union representation at any and all of these steps by stating your Weingarten Rights and contacting the union at UICUnitedFaculty@gmail.com.

What Is “Verbal Counseling” In Disciplinary Procedure?
The first stage of progressive discipline should be verbal counseling. This counseling must include a clear statement that this conversation is disciplinary in nature, and must include a clear reason for the discipline being contemplated. You may, upon being notified that an investigatory or disciplinary meeting is taking place, assert your Weingarten Rights and contact the union for representation at UICUnitedFaculty@gmail.com.

Does Prior Discipline Affect The Process/Steps For Future Infractions?
Yes, but only within a limited timeframe. Written warnings are considered effective for up to two consecutive semesters for the purpose of continuity of the disciplinary process, so an infraction in your first year of employment cannot be used to justify immediate suspension or dismissal in your fourth year. Prior discipline can, however, be recalled to establish patterns of behavior when contemplating disciplinary action.

Can I Be Suspended/Placed On Leave During A Disciplinary Investigation?
Yes, within certain limits. It is understood that depending on the seriousness of the offense, a faculty member may be removed from their duties while an investigation takes place. Such a removal must be in the form of paid leave. You should contact the union at UICUnitedFaculty@gmail.com immediately if you are placed on leave pending an investigation.

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