New Library Directors Handbook

Discipline and Termination

Progressive Discipline: Except in extreme cases, such as when someone has endangered patrons or other staff members, the library should use a progressive discipline approach to employees who are having problems. One of the most important tools for preventing discipline problems is setting clear standards and expectations for performance - not only in what tasks should be accomplished and how they will be measured, but also our expectations of how we will treat each other and our library's users.

A progressive discipline approach begins with relatively mild measures of discipline, and proceeds to more serious steps if the problem is not corrected. The emphasis of this approach is communication and giving the erring employee a chance to improve. Some typical steps in progressive discipline are as follows:

Informal Discussion: The supervisor discusses the problem with the employee informally, trying to understand the problem and reach a mutually acceptable solution.

Oral Warning: The supervisor warns the employee that his/her behavior is unacceptable, and that if improvements are not made other action will be taken.

Written Reprimand: The supervisor writes a formal reprimand, copies of which are sent to the employee and the supervisor's superior. The reprimand describes the problem and consequences that might occur if the problem is not corrected. The reprimand is placed in the employee's file. At this point, there may also be some outside intervention from the supervisor's superior.

Suspension: The employee is sent home for a specific period of time. S/he is not paid for the time missed. The employee should be afforded notice of the allegations and an opportunity to be heard prior to suspension without pay. A note explaining the action is placed in the employee's file.

Termination: The employee is fired. The reasons for firing are documented and placed in the file, along with a summary of the history of the progressive discipline process.