By William Wiley, September 19, 2018
When you’re in a classroom as much as we are here at FELTG, you start to notice topics that come up from participants when they form a pattern or are repeated. The most asked-for repeated topic we’ve had so far this year is for a format for a Reprimand in Lieu of a Suspension.
If you’ve attended our classes, you know that here at FELTG, we’re down on suspensions as a form of discipline. They hurt the agency sometimes more than they hurt the employee. On suspension days, the agency has to forgo the services of the suspended employee. Coworkers sometimes have to pick up the slack, not something that makes for a happy workplace. We even had a supervisor in a class earlier this year who said he had to spend nearly a thousand dollars in overtime to cover for a suspended employee. Why do these things if there’s an alternative just as good without all the downside?
And that’s where a Reprimand in Lieu of a Suspension comes into consideration. Experienced Employee Relations Specialists know how powerful progressive discipline can be when trying to defend firing an employee. As President Trump reinforced in his May 25 Executive order, progressive discipline is not mandatory, but as seasoned employment lawyers have learned, the Board gives a lot of weight to progressive discipline when evaluating the Douglas Factors relevant to a case.
Every GS-1 Employee Relations Specialist knows there are three steps to traditional progressive discipline:
1st offense – Reprimand
2nd offense – Suspension
3rd offense – Removal
The variation that we here at FELTG think is a great idea is to replace the suspension second-step with a Reprimand in Lieu of a Suspension. Here’s how that would work:
First offense – Reprimand, as usual
Second offense –
a. Propose a classic suspension.
b. Then, after the employee has responded to the proposed suspension notice, the Deciding Official offers the employee a Reprimand in Lieu of a Suspension using the format below.
c. f the employee accepts, you have avoided the workplace harm caused by a suspension, with the bonus that you will not have to deal with a grievance or EEO complaint.
Third offense – Remove as usual based on the two prior acts of discipline.
MSPB has recognized this alternative as equivalent to a suspension for many years now as long as the employee agrees to it (we’ve not seen the Board treat a unilaterally-imposed alternative in the same manner). if you’re not using them, you’re missing out on an employee-friendly management-supporting approach to discipline that can really make your life better.
We’re just busting with cutting-edge ideas like this. Come to our seminars and learn even more.
Reprimand in Lieu of Suspension Agreement Format
From: [Deciding Official’s name, title, and organizational location]
To: [Employee’s name, title, series, and grade]
Subj: Decision Regarding Proposed [Suspension of X Days]
Date: [Month, day, and year]
On [date of proposal notice], your supervisor proposed to me that you be suspended based on certain charged misconduct. [If the employee responded to the proposal, note that here; e.g., “You responded both orally and/or in writing to the proposal.”] I have considered the proposal and all information relevant to the charged misconduct, and it is my determination that discipline is warranted. However, because your suspension from the workplace would cause a hardship for the agency, I hereby offer you a Reprimand in Lieu of Suspension under the following conditions:
- You commit to abstaining from any future acts of misconduct.
- You acknowledge that this Reprimand in Lieu of Suspension is a step in progressive discipline and may be used as an aggravating factor in deciding the proper penalty should you engage in further misconduct.
- You adopt this reprimand as a voluntary act on your part which you will not grieve nor otherwise challenge in any forum.
If you accept this offer of a Reprimand in Lieu of Suspension, please sign and return this memo to your supervisor by close of business tomorrow. If you choose not to accept this offer, I will issue my decision regarding the proposed suspension as soon as practicable.
[Deciding Official’s signature]
By my signature below, I, accept a Reprimand in Lieu of Suspension under the above conditions.
[Employee’s name] Date