Sources of Information:
- Facilitator Guide for the Advanced Steward Training course on “The Essentials of Progressive Discipline”
As per the recommended format for each section:
This section provides a simple introduction to the key principles of discipline. Understanding these basics is important for stewards because it will allow you to better assist and advise our members who face disciplinary measures, even if you have not yet had the opportunity to attend the Advanced Steward Training course on The Principles of Progressive Discipline.
2. Essential Information
What Is Discipline?
Discipline is a corrective measure imposed by the employer on an employee who is found to have committed misconduct. Articles 12(1) to 12(3) of the Financial Administration Act (FAA) give the employer the authority to establish standards of discipline and set penalties. The FAA specifies that disciplinary action can be imposed only where the employer has “just cause”.
The principle of just cause means that the employer must establish:
- that the employee has committed misconduct;
- that the misconduct justifies some kind of disciplinary action; and,
- that the disciplinary action taken was appropriate and reasonable after taking into consideration the facts of the particular case and any aggravating and mitigating factors.
Aggravating & Mitigating Factors
An aggravating factor is something that would lead to a more substantial (harsher) penalty for the misconduct. Aggravating factors may include, for example, misconduct having occurred on a daily basis over a long period of time, dishonesty during the investigation process or the failure to express remorse.
A mitigating factor is something that would lead to a more lenient (lesser) penalty. Mitigating factors may include, for example, some kind of provocation prior to the misconduct, a clear disciplinary record previous to the misconduct in question or an expression of remorse.
Purpose and Nature of Discipline
Discipline should be corrective and not punitive. The employer’s goal should be to motivate employees to accept and adhere to rules and standards of conduct established for the organization. Ultimately, any disciplinary action imposed should deter and correct the behavior and, where possible and appropriate, rehabilitate the employee.
Types of Discipline
There are six types of discipline:
- oral reprimand
- written reprimand
- financial penalty
- termination or discharge
The Disciplinary Process
The disciplinary process unfolds as follows:
- The employee is notified of the disciplinary (also called “fact finding”) meeting.
- The fact-finding meeting is held.
- The employer investigates further, if required.
- The employee is convened to a disciplinary hearing at which the results of the fact-finding meeting / investigation are provided and disciplinary measures, if appropriate, are imposed.
- The employee may file a grievance regarding the discipline imposed.
The Steward’s Role
The steward can play a crucial role throughout the disciplinary process.
Prior to the fact finding meeting, the steward can meet with the employee to gather relevant facts, assist in collecting evidence, and explain the disciplinary process. It can be quite reassuring for an employee just to know that they will have someone present with them through this stressful process.
At the fact finding meeting, the steward can ensure that:
- The employee shares all of the relevant facts that may help their case
- The employee shares any reasonable explanation for his/her behavior that might exist
- Any relevant mitigating factors are presented.
At this stage, the steward can also take thorough notes of what is stated and can take the opportunity to speak with a PIPSC ERO to obtain additional advice and support.
At the disciplinary hearing, the steward can listen carefully and take comprehensive notes regarding the evidence the employer has and regarding the rationale the employer is relying upon in making its decision as to discipline.
After the disciplinary hearing, the steward can “debrief” with the employee, discussing the outcome of the investigation and the possibility of filing a grievance against the discipline imposed. It is useful at this point, as well, for the steward to contact the PIPSC ERO for additional advice and support related to the filing of a grievance.
Tips for Stewards
The following are points that are worth keeping in mind as you assist a member through the disciplinary process:
- Sometimes an employee can be disciplined for misconduct that is related to, attributable to or caused by a disability. The employer’s duty to accommodate an employee with a disability applies even in disciplinary situations. In the absence of fault (or culpability) on the part of the employee, the employer should not impose discipline.
- An employee accused of misconduct is entitled to know the details of the allegations against him or her and to have the opportunity to fully respond to these allegations.
- Anything said during a disciplinary investigation can be used in evidence in criminal and administrative proceedings against the employee.
- Take the opportunity to review the “Standards of Discipline” section of your collective agreement as well as any discipline policies, guidelines or directives specific to your employer.