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Portland, Oregon
PERSONNEL LETTER NO. 752-1 (Revised) DATE: August 29, 2003
SUBJECT: Discipline, Adverse Actions, and Alternative Discipline
To inform managers/supervisors and employees of the forms of discipline used in BPA, alternative discipline, disciplinary and non-disciplinary adverse actions, and the conditions under which such actions may be taken, and the procedures for taking such actions.
Appendix A, Guidance for Selecting Corrective Action, Corrective Action Guide, has been revised to include specific corrective action for situations where an employee fails to advise management when they have been medically diagnosed as having a highly contagious illness. Appendix B has been revised to delegate to managers the authority to place an employee in a paid, non-duty status in certain situations and under certain conditions when an employee has a highly contagious illness. This Personnel Letter supercedes Personnel Letter 752-1, Discipline, Adverse Actions, and Alternative Discipline, dated February 21, 2003.
This Personnel Letter incorporates all applicable provisions regarding the coverage and exclusion of employees as specified in 5 CFR, Part 752, Adverse Actions, for suspensions and adverse actions, and any alternative discipline issued in lieu of these actions. Instructions on admonishments, reprimands, and any alternative discipline issued in lieu of an admonishment or reprimand, may be applied to all BPA employees.

  1. 5 U.S.C., Chapter 43, Performance Appraisal

  2. 5 U.S.C., Chapter 75, Adverse Actions

  3. 5 U.S.C., Chapter 77, Appeals

  4. 5 CFR, Part 432, Performance-Based Reduction in Grade and Removal Actions

  5. 5 CFR, Part 752, Adverse Actions

  6. 5 CFR, Part 1201, Merit Systems Protection Board Practices and Procedures

  7. BPAM Chapter 400/700A, Employee Relations Program

  8. BPA Management Assistance Services (MAS) Handbook

  9. Personnel Letter 213-1, Student Career Experience Program

  10. Personnel Letter 315-1, Probationary Periods for New Managers and Supervisors

  11. Personnel Letter 315-2, Probationary or Trial Periods for New Employees

  12. Personnel Letter 316-1, Temporary Limited Appointments

  13. Personnel Letter 293-3, Employee Relations Case Files

  14. Personnel Letter 339-7, Medical Evaluation of Employees and Applicants

  15. Personnel Letter 430-1, Performance Appraisal

  16. Personnel Letter 432-1, Taking Action Based on Unacceptable Performance

  17. Personnel Letter 531-1, Requirement for Granting and Denying Within-Grade Increases

  18. Personnel Letter 752-2, Guidance on Violent and Threatening Behavior in the Work Place

  19. Personnel Letter 793-1, Alcohol Testing Implementation Plan


  1. Admonishment. An informal rebuke or warning issued to an employee orally and/or in writing.

  1. Adverse Action. A removal, reduction in grade or pay, suspension for more than 14 calendar days, or furlough for 30 days or less.

  1. Alternative Discipline. An agreement developed between the employee and BPA in which the employee agrees to an alternative penalty and/or performance of volunteer service or a special project, etc., and waives all rights to appeal. Alternative discipline is used when it is believed that corrective action, less than the traditional disciplinary procedures, will affect a change in conduct/behavior.

  1. Days. For purposes of this Personnel Letter, “days” mean calendar days.

  1. Discipline. Formal action taken in order to correct misconduct or misbehavior. “Discipline” is an inclusive term referring to reprimands, suspensions, demotions, and removals taken for misconduct.

  1. Furlough. Placing an employee in a temporary status, without duties and pay, because of lack of work or funds, or for other non-disciplinary reasons.

  1. Indefinite Suspension. The temporary removal of an employee from work and pay status pending an investigation, inquiry, or further agency action. The indefinite suspension continues for an indeterminate period of time and ends with the occurrence of the pending conditions set forth in the notice of action, or during notice of adverse action.

  1. Non-Disciplinary Adverse Action. An adverse action taken for non-conduct related reasons, such as for physical inability to perform, inability to maintain a regular

full-time work schedule, performance difficulties, etc.

  1. Performance-Based Action. Action taken based on unacceptable or inefficient performance of duties. (Performance-based actions can be taken under procedures in this Personnel Letter, or under procedures in Personnel Letter 432-1.)

  1. Reduction in Grade or Pay. Actions taken that change an employee involuntarily from a position at one grade and rate of basic pay to another position at a lower grade or rate of basic pay.

  1. Removal. The involuntary separation of an employee from employment with the BPA and the Federal Civil Service.

  1. Reprimand. A written statement of formal censure issued to an employee for misconduct.

  1. Suspension. The temporary removal of an employee from work and from a pay status for disciplinary purposes.

BPAM Chapter 400/700A, Employee Relations Program contains:

  • BPA’s policy regarding its employee relations program including discipline, alternative discipline, adverse actions, performance-based actions, within-grade increase denials, terminations during probationary and trial periods, and from temporary appointments, and

  • Delegated authorities for taking these actions.

Corrective actions are personal matters and, to the extent feasible under the circumstances, should be accomplished in private. Interviews and inquiries concerning such actions are conducted privately and in such a manner as to minimize personal embarrassment. The minimum number of persons possible consistent with the need for sound fact-gathering, and internal coordination and labor management relations obligations, should be involved in, or made party to, the action.
Investigation of situations that could lead to corrective action should be initiated as soon as possible while information is fresh and readily available. When an employee properly invokes his/her right to union representation (Weingarten right) during an investigatory discussion with the employee, management will honor such right. Normally a corrective action should be initiated after such investigations are completed and management has had a reasonable period to review the resulting reports.
No suspension or adverse action may be taken against an employee unless it is for such cause as will promote the efficiency of the service. An action will generally “promote the efficiency of the service” if there is a rational connection (i.e., nexus) between the efficiency of the service and (a) the employee’s misconduct in disciplinary actions, or (b) the employee’s problem in non-disciplinary actions (e.g., physical inability to perform). In other words, if the conduct may reasonably be expected to interfere with the ability of the person to function in the position or the agency’s ability to discharge its responsibilities, it interferes with the efficiency of the service.
A. Purpose. Discipline is a tool that supervisors and managers can use to enforce the rules, regulations, and work requirements that allow BPA to accomplish its mission in an efficient, productive, and orderly manner.
Discipline is used to correct inappropriate behavior, not to punish employees. The objective is correction and rehabilitation. Action must be fair, equitable, and impartial. Generally, the goal is to administer the lowest level of discipline needed to correct the problem, so that the same conduct/behavior will not be repeated. Appendix A provides guidance in this regard, recognizing that each situation is usually unique.
B. Progressive Discipline. BPA follows an approach called "progressive discipline." Progressive discipline means that if an employee continues to engage in unacceptable conduct, the actions taken by management to correct the problem will become more severe after each instance. Repeated infractions are prima facie evidence that the previous disciplinary action was insufficient to bring about correction, and more severe corrective actions shall normally be assessed in such cases.
Appendix A to this Personnel Letter provides guidance for selecting the appropriate corrective action.
C. Admonishment. An admonishment is an informal warning issued to an employee orally and/or in writing in an attempt to correct misconduct. It is not considered to be formal discipline. (It is included under the discipline section of this Personnel Letter because, in some cases, it is a preliminary step to formal discipline.)
There is no prescribed format for an admonishment. It may be oral or written. It is not filed in the employee's Official Personnel Folder (OPF), and does not require establishment of a disciplinary record file. It does not carry the regulatory right of reply or appeal by the employee; however, employees are not precluded from filing a grievance over the matter. The admonishment is a valuable tool in situations where an employee should be informed specifically of deficiencies in performance or conduct that could lead to formal disciplinary action, if continued, and the conduct expectations required for the employee to correct the deficiencies. When used, an admonishment should be identified as such to the employee by the supervisor. Admonishments should not be confused with normal performance discussions or the counseling inherent in day-to-day supervision.
Notes regarding an oral admonishment, or a copy of a written admonishment issued to an employee, shall be maintained by the administering manager/supervisor. This documentation will later become part of the employee's disciplinary record if it is used to substantiate subsequent discipline. One of the better techniques to accomplish documentation of an oral admonishment is to write a confirming memorandum for the file and give a copy of the memorandum to the employee.
A manager/supervisor may also want to document any discussion with an employee regarding performance or conduct, even though it does not take the form of an admonishment, and may furnish a copy to the employee.
D. Letter of Reprimand. The first and least severe form of formal discipline. The letter of reprimand should be used in those situations that require an action more stringent than an admonishment. In some situations, a letter of reprimand may be the last step in a progression of penalties before removal if the employee has been given a clear warning that a further offense could lead to removal. Depending on the seriousness of the offense, it is not necessary to issue a reprimand prior to progressing to more severe disciplinary action.
The letter of reprimand shall be clearly identified as a reprimand (i.e., opening statement should state, “This is an official letter of reprimand for . . .”). It should clearly specify the nature of the infraction or transgression, including information related to that reason such as times, dates, and circumstances that required the corrective action to be taken. It should inform the employee of all time limits, the right to file a grievance, where to seek assistance regarding the grievance procedure, and the right to representation. The letter of reprimand must be reviewed by the Employee Relations staff for appropriateness and technical accuracy before being given to the employee. This letter will be filed in the OPF for a period of not to exceed 1 year or until the employee leaves the Department of Energy, whichever is earlier, or it may be removed earlier, whenever the official issuing the reprimand so directs. See section XIII, below, regarding procedures for tracking and removing reprimands from OPFs.
E. Suspension for 14 Days or Less. A suspension from duty for 14 days or less involves an employee being formally directed to remain away from work for a specified period of time, without pay. Suspensions are used to correct serious or repeated misconduct or violations of local, State, or Federal law, an agency rule or regulation, or administrative instructions and procedures. A suspension is an appropriate disciplinary measure when less severe disciplinary actions fail to correct an employee’s conduct, or when the gravity of the offense warrants stringent corrective action. Suspensions are recorded permanently in an employee's OPF. The suspension process involves the issuance of a notice of proposed action to the employee and a subsequent decision to the employee.

  1. Letters of Proposed Suspension. A proposed suspension for 14 days or less must indicate clearly that it is a proposal rather than a final decision, and that the final decision will not be made until after receipt of the employee's reply or after the expiration of the time period for reply if no reply is made. It shall also inform the employee where and to whom the reply shall be directed and the employee's right to:

  1. Review the material supporting the action proposed in the notice. (Depending upon the nature of the disciplinary action, it may be advisable to include copies of all supporting material with the letter. Proposing officials should consult the Employee Relations staff regarding the necessity for this.)

  1. A reasonable time to answer (usually 10 days, but not less than 24 hours) orally and in writing and to furnish affidavits and other documentary evidence in support of the answer.

  1. Be represented by an attorney or other representative.

2. Letter of Decision.

  1. The letter of decision shall be issued as soon as practical after the receipt and consideration of the employee's reply, or after expiration of the time allocated for the employee's answer to the Letter of Proposed Suspension. In arriving at the written decision, only the reason(s) specified in the letter of proposed action and any response by the employee or his/her representative will be considered.

  1. The decision shall state which reasons were relied upon and which were not (tell the employee which reasons in the proposed letter were determined to be valid and which were dismissed and why), and if the proposed suspension is determined to be warranted, the effective date of the action. No new reasons may be added to the letter of decision.

  1. The letter must state the employee's grievance rights and who to contact regarding these rights.

F. Adverse Action taken for Disciplinary Reasons. Adverse actions (i.e., removals, reductions in grade or pay, and suspensions of more than 14 calendar days) taken for disciplinary reasons can be used to correct serious or repeated misconduct or violations of local, State or Federal law, an agency rule or regulation, or administrative instructions and procedures. A disciplinary adverse action is an appropriate measure when less severe disciplinary actions fail to correct an employee’s conduct, or when the gravity of the offense warrants such corrective action. Adverse action procedures are described below in section X.

G. Additional Guidance. Additional guidance regarding corrective action for misconduct, including sample letters, is located in the MAS Handbook. All formal discipline, including proposal and decision letters, must be reviewed by the Employee Relations staff for appropriateness and technical accuracy before being given to the employee. Letters of admonishment may also be reviewed by the Employee Relations staff prior to issuance.
A. Actions Covered. For purposes of this section, an adverse action is a removal, a reduction in grade or pay, or a suspension of more than 14 calendar days effected for either disciplinary or non-disciplinary reasons, as well as a furlough for 30 days or less.
1. Removal. A removal action, terminating the employer-employee relationship, is an involuntary separation based on the decision of a BPA official exercising delegated authority. A removal action can be initiated for both disciplinary and non-disciplinary reasons.
2. Suspensions of more than 14 days. For purposes of this section, a suspension is the involuntary placement of an employee in a non-duty, non-pay status for a period of more than 14 calendar days.
3. Indefinite Suspension. The indefinite suspension may be used pending further investigation or pending judicial disposition of a criminal matter (where there is insufficient evidence available to warrant removal or where disclosure of the evidence would jeopardize prosecution of the criminal case).
4. Furlough for 30 Days or Less. A furlough for 30 days or less is a

non-disciplinary adverse action placing an employee in a temporary non-duty and non-pay status. A furlough action may be taken on the basis of lack of work or funds, or on the basis of an emergency situation affecting plant equipment or materials. Furloughs for more than 30 calendar days are reduction in force actions processed under 5 CFR, Part 351, Reduction In Force. The advance written notice and opportunity to answer are not necessary for

furlough-without-pay due to unforeseeable circumstances such as sudden breakdowns in equipment, acts of God, or sudden emergencies requiring immediate curtailment of activities.
5. Reductions in Grade or Pay. A reduction in grade occurs when an employee is moved to a position of lower grade under the classification system or BPA hourly job standards. A reduction in pay occurs when the basic rate of pay of an employee is reduced involuntarily (i.e., not requested by the employee for personal reasons or for the employee’s benefit). This excludes the loss of any differentials such as night work, overtime, hazardous duty, holiday pay, per diem, etc. A reduction-in-grade or pay can be for non-disciplinary or disciplinary reasons. Reductions-in-grade which entitle annual employees to grade retention under 5 CFR, Part 536, Grade and Pay Retention, are not covered by this section, nor are reductions for hourly employees for similar reasons.

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