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Administrative Policies and Procedures Manual - 3215: Performance Management

Date Originally Issued: 05-19-1995
Revised: 10-15-1995, 08-01-2006, 03-01-2011, 02-20-2015

Authorized by Regents' Policy 6.3 "Privileges and Benefits"
Process Owner: Vice President of Human Resources

1. General

Employees play a valuable and critical role in helping the University fulfill its mission. Supervisors have a responsibility to train and support each employee in understanding job requirements and to assist employees in improving performance and addressing issues negatively affecting the workplace. Employees should be treated with dignity and respect. In turn, providing quality programs and services requires cooperation by employees and adherence to established policies, procedures, regulations, practices, and high standards of job performance. In an effort to maximize the contribution of every employee, the University has adopted this policy on performance management.

The University encourages a supportive problem solving approach to performance problems, but the University recognizes that misconduct, violation of policies and procedures, and continued performance problems may require disciplinary action. The University normally uses the progressive discipline process described in Section 4. herein, to address misconduct and continued performance problems. Progressive discipline is intended to be corrective, not punitive in nature. It is designed to provide employees with notice of deficiencies and an opportunity to improve. However, some violations of policies and procedures, or continued negative behavior or performance may be of such serious nature that immediate suspension or discharge may be appropriate. The University retains the right in accordance with applicable federal and state laws and Regents' policies to determine the methods, means, and personnel required to maintain efficient operations. This includes the right to hire, promote, transfer, assign, and retain staff employees in positions within the University.

For purposes of this policy "employees" include regular staff, contract, and term employees. Individuals specifically appointed as faculty; undergraduate and graduate student employees, including Medical School house officers; and independent contractors are not subject to this policy.

2. Employee Responsibilities and Rights

Employees are responsible for following established University policies, procedures, regulations, and practices. They shall work in an efficient, competent, and cooperative manner and fulfill their job requirements. An employee's right with respect to disciplinary actions and discharge differ for the various classifications as described below. Employees who disagree with any disciplinary action taken may seek resolution under the UAP 3220 ("Ombuds/Dispute Resolution Services for Staff") or the appropriate collective bargaining agreement.

2.1. Temporary and On-Call Employees

Temporary and on-call employees may be released from employment with or without cause.

2.2. Probationary Employees

Probationary employees are those employees who have not completed the appropriate probationary period as defined in "Recruitment and Hiring" Policy 3210, UBP or the appropriate collective bargaining agreements. Probationary periods will only be extended in accordance with Section 7 of Recruitment and Hiring" Policy 3210, UBP. All extensions must be approved by the Vice President for Human Resources.

Probationary employees may be separated from employment with or without cause. However, supervisors should make reasonable efforts to train and work with probationary employees to achieve satisfactory performance. Refer to "Separation of Employment" Policy 3225, UBP for notice requirements.

2.3. Post-Probationary Employees

Post-probationary employees are those employees who have completed the appropriate probationary period. Post-probationary employees may be suspended or discharged only for proper/just cause (discussed in Section 5. herein). Supervisors should normally use progressive discipline, when appropriate, to resolve disciplinary problems involving post-probationary employees. Progressive discipline is discussed in Section 4. herein.

2.3.1. Employees Hired on a Term Appointment

Certain employees hired into a position that is designated to run for a defined period of time are employed at the University under a term appointment agreement. Post-probationary employees hired on a term appointment may be suspended or discharged only for proper/just cause (discussed in Section 5. herein) during the term appointment. However, the individual's employment will end as of the specified date, unless the supervisor notifies the employee that the appointment will be extended. Separation at the end of the original or extended term end appointment shall not constitute discharge and does not require proper/just cause.

2.4. Contract Employees

Contract employees are administrators designated by the President, who are hired on periodic employment contracts. Contract employees may be suspended or discharged only for proper/just cause (discussed in Section 5. herein) during the contract period; however, the University has the right not to renew these contracts when they expire. Terms, conditions, and notification requirements for employees hired under contract are described in "Contract Employees" Policy 3240, UBP. During the term of the contract, supervisors should normally use progressive discipline when resolving disciplinary problems involving contract employees. Progressive discipline is discussed in Section 4. herein. Separation at the end of the original or extended contract period shall not constitute discharge and does not require proper/just cause.

3. Supervisor Responsibilities

Supervisors should seek to achieve a productive, effective work environment by ensuring that each employee's job performance meets expectations. Supervisors should make appropriate efforts to ensure that employees understand job requirements and expectations, and supervisors should address problems that may impact on performance in a timely, constructive, and corrective manner.

The University does not condone poor performance; however, it recognizes that good "coaching" can correct many performance deficiencies. Good performance management requires continuous improvement feedback to employees. Supervisors should evaluate performance, identify shortcomings, and plan training needed to correct any weaknesses.

Supervisors should use a problem-solving approach to resolve performance problems and other issues negatively affecting the workplace. When an employee is not suited to a specific position, a supervisor may wish to consider a lateral transfer to a different position, which may be better suited to the employee. A lateral transfer may be appropriate when there is a comparable position open within the department and such a transfer is reasonably predicted to result in improved performance. In cases of poor performance where an employee performed satisfactorily in a lower level position, a demotion may be appropriate if there is a lower level position open in the department. Since a demotion results in a salary reduction, this can only be done with the employee's agreement. All demotions must be approved, in advance, by the Vice President for Human Resources.

In dealing with performance problems, supervisors are encouraged to seek assistance from the assigned Human Resources Consultant in the Division of Human Resources before beginning the disciplinary process.  Following is a list of additional resources which can be used, as appropriate. 

  • their superiors (especially their chair, dean, or director);
  • the University Office of Ombuds/Dispute Resolution (DR) Services (refer to "Dispute Resolution Policy" Policy 3220, UBP);
  • the University Counseling, Assistance, and Referral Service (CARS);
  • the Employee and Organizational Development Department in the Division of Human Resources; or
  • the University Office of Equal Opportunity.

When performance problems continue or employee misconduct is of a serious nature requiring discipline, the actions described in Section 4. herein may be appropriate. The objective of the following corrective actions is to seek to return the employee to positive productive performance.

4. Progressive Discipline

The University of New Mexico uses progressive discipline for post-probationary regular, term, or contract employees when appropriate. Progressive discipline is designed to allow an employee a reasonable opportunity to meet the requirements of the job, comply with University policies, procedures, practices, and regulations, and allow the employee an opportunity to improve performance.

Progressive discipline may not be appropriate in all instances; such as when health or safety is at risk or a crime has been committed, and is not a bar to a supervisor imposing stronger discipline with the approval of the Vice President for Human Resources, depending on the individual circumstances. Some violations (listed in Section 5.) could be of such a serious nature that disciplinary action could lead directly to suspension or discharge with the approval of the Vice President for Human Resources.

Progressive discipline actions include the use of oral warnings, written warnings, suspensions, and/or discharge. Discipline should be administered equitably, consistently, and progressively. Depending on the nature of the performance problem, misconduct, or violation of policy, a supervisor may start progressive discipline at any appropriate point in the process. The following sections describe in detail the actions used in progressive discipline.

4.1. Oral Warning

The primary objective of oral warning(s) should be to advise the employee that there is a performance problem or the employee has violated policies or procedures and to tell the employee what he or she can do to restore satisfactory performance. It is expected that such discussions will result in improved performance. The supervisor should advise the employee:

  • of the nature of the problem and allow the employee to explain any reason for the problem and suggest ways to correct the situation;
  • of the policies or rules violated (if any);
  • of the specific actions to be taken by the employee and/or supervisor to correct the problem, including specific time frames, if appropriate;
  • that further disciplinary action will occur should the problem persist; and
  • that disciplinary action may be disputed according to the provisions of "Dispute Resolution Policy" Policy 3220, UBP or the appropriate collective bargaining agreement.

The supervisor must make it clear to the employee that this is an "oral warning." An oral warning is not documented in the employee's official personnel file, maintained by the Division of Human Resources. However, the supervisor shall maintain a record of any oral warnings given which should be referred to in any further disciplinary action taken.

4.2. Written Warning

A written warning provides the employee with a written explanation of the events leading to the warning, an explanation of any applicable rules, and any subsequent information that can help the employee improve the identified performance problem. The supervisor must make it clear to the employee that this is a "written warning" and that if the employee does not improve performance to a satisfactory level within the time frames listed more serious disciplinary action will take place. A written warning is documented in the employee's official personnel file maintained by the Division of Human Resources. The written warning should include:

  • the nature of the problem, including reference to any earlier oral warning(s);
  • the policies or rules violated (if any);
  • the specific action to be taken by the employee and/or supervisor to correct the problem, including specific time frames, if appropriate;
  • a statement that further disciplinary action, up to and including discharge, could occur should the problem persist; and
  • a statement that disciplinary action may be disputed according to the provisions of "Dispute Resolution Policy" Policy 3220, UBP or the appropriate collective bargaining agreement.

Since the purpose of discipline is to help employees correct problems, when an employee has corrected a problem and the supervisor is satisfied that it will not reoccur, subsequent performance evaluations should reflect the improved performance. After an employee has received at least three (3) positive evaluations, an employee may petition his or her dean or director to have the written warning removed from the employee's official personnel file.

4.3. Suspension

A suspension is a temporary involuntary separation of employment, without pay, for performance problems that have not been satisfactorily corrected through the use of oral and written warnings or for misconduct or serious violation of policy or procedure. Suspensions range from one (1) work day up to thirty (30) work days, depending on the seriousness of the problem. The supervisor must comply with the notice requirements listed in Section 6. herein, and should inform the employee in writing that the suspension is a disciplinary action and that discharge could occur should the problem persist. A suspension requires approval, in advance, of the cognizant dean or director and the Vice President for Human Resources.

4.4. Discharge

A discharge is a permanent involuntary separation of employment from the University for disciplinary reasons. Discharges must be approved, in advance, by the cognizant dean or director and the Vice President for Human ResourcesThe supervisor must comply with the notice requirements listed in Section 6. herein.

5. Proper/Just Cause

Proper/just cause is any behavior significant or substantial in nature relating to the employee's work that is inconsistent with the employee's obligation to the University. A list of examples that constitute proper/just cause is shown below for guidance only, and is not considered as an all inclusive list.

  • Assault or battery on another person.
  • Conviction of a felony or misdemeanor where the provisions of the Criminal Offender Employment Act apply, depending on the nature of the offense and the type of position.
  • Creating a hostile working environment.
  • Discrimination, including sexual harassment.
  • Falsification (deliberate) or omission of information on employment applications or resumes, time cards/records, or other University records.
  • Illegal drugs and alcohol - violation of the University's "Policy on Illegal Drugs and Alcohol."
  • Incompetence.
  • Inefficiency.
  • Insubordination.
  • Intoxication on the job.
  • Misappropriation or personal use of University funds, property, possessions, or resources.
  • Misconduct.
  • Negligence.
  • Performance which continues to be inadequate after reasonable time has been allowed to correct it.
  • Possession of or distribution of obscene or pornographic material unrelated to business needs or University research.
  • Theft or fraud.
  • Uncooperative behavior.
  • Confidentiality - violation of confidentiality or the release of confidential information.
  • Violation of University policies.

6. Notice Requirements

6.1. Notice of Contemplated Action

To initiate a suspension or discharge of a post-probationary regular, term, or contract employee, the dean, director, or department head must serve the employee with written notice of the contemplated action. Suspensions and discharges require approval of the cognizant dean or director and the Vice President for Human Resources prior to issuing a Notice of Contemplated Action. This notice must include all the following points:

  • Cite the acts which the supervisor believes may constitute proper/just cause. These may be any one (1) or more of the acts listed in Section 5. herein.
  • Give a summary of the evidence against the employee.
  • Specify the contemplated action.
  • State that the employee has ten (10) calendar days from receipt of the notice to respond orally or in writing to the contemplated action.

A copy of the notice will be sent to the Division of Human Resources for placement in the employee's official personnel file.

6.2. Notices

Notices shall be in writing and should be served in person, if possible. At the time of service, the employee should be asked to sign an acknowledgement of receipt. If the employee declines, the supervisor shall so note for the record. If the notice cannot be served in person, the notice may be sent by certified mail with a return receipt requested. The notice must be properly stamped and addressed to the last address provided by the employee. Service of the notice is complete when the notice is hand delivered or deposited with the United States Postal Service by certified mail with a return receipt requested.

6.3. Computation of Time

Any time period required or allowed by this policy, does not include the day of the action from which this time period begins to run. If the last day of the time period falls on a Saturday, Sunday, or holiday, the last day of the time period shall be the next working day.

 6.4. Response to Notice of Contemplated Action

The employee or a representative of the employee's choosing may respond orally and/or in writing to the notice of contemplated action. Refer to the appropriate collective bargaining agreement regarding representation for employees in titles listed under labor agreements. The response is served to the supervisor who signed the notice. If the employee wishes to meet with the supervisor to respond to the notice of contemplated action, he or she must submit a written request for the meeting within five (5) work days from receipt of the notice. As stated in Section 6.1. herein, the employee must respond orally and/or in writing within ten (10) calendar days from receipt of the notice. Any extension of time must be in writing and agreed upon by both the employee and the supervisor.

A copy of the response will be sent to the Division of Human Resources for placement in the employee's official personnel file.

6.5. Notice of Final Action

After considering the employee's oral and/or written response, the supervisor shall decide on the final action and serve the employee with a written notice of final action. The notice of final action shall be within thirty (30) calendar days after receipt of the employee's response and include all the following points:

  • The final action to be taken.
  • The acts constituting proper/just cause, which shall only include allegations specified in the Notice of Contemplated Action.
  • A summary of the evidence.
  • A reply to the employee's response, if any.
  • The effective date of any disciplinary action.
  • A statement that the employee may request within two (2) weeks of receipt of the Notice of Final Action that the DR Coordinator review the action according to the provisions of "Dispute Resolution Policy" Policy 3220, UBP.

A copy of the notice will be sent to the Division of Human Resources for placement in the employee's official personnel file.

6.6. Pay Status

Post-probationary and contract employees will remain on paid status at all times pending completion of the disciplinary action process, with the exception of a suspension (Section 4.3. herein) approved by the Vice President for Human Resources.  An employee may be placed on administrative leave with pay pending completion of the investigative or disciplinary process (for more information, refer to Section 3.7. of "Leave With Pay" Policy 3415, UBP).

7. Required Approval by the Division of Human Resources

Supervisors contemplating the suspension, demotion, or discharge of any employee, including probationary and temporary employees, must consult with the Vice President for Human Resources before taking such action. Whenever prior consultation is not practical because of reasons perceived to be of such an urgent or serious nature, the employee must be placed on administrative leave with pay until the case can be discussed with the Vice President for Human Resources.