Article IV, Section 9 of the AFSCME contract provides, in part:
"Whenever the Employer determines that an employee must be removed from a current work assignment pending the completion of an investigation by the Employer to determine if disciplinary action is warranted, the Employer may:
1. Reassign the employee to another work assignment at their current rate of pay for up to twenty-one (21) calendar days, or
2. Suspend the employee from work for up to twenty-one (21) calendar days.
If the employee is suspended under number two (2) above, the employee shall be in pay status at their current rate of pay. If, at the completion of the investigation, the Employer decides that suspension or discharge is warranted, the Employer shall have the right to recover the pay provided during the period of suspension under number two (2) above, consistent with the disciplinary action."
In limited types of circumstances, it may be necessary to remove an AFSCME covered employee from a regular assignment or from the workplace pending the outcome of an investigation and prior to the imposition of any discipline that may be warranted. A temporary reassignment or investigatory suspension may be appropriate, for example, when there are allegations of sexual harassment, threats of violence, or a reasonable suspicion of an intent to sabotage data/equipment.
Because merit employees are paid an hourly wage for time spent at work, it is not the University's practice to pay employees for time spent away from work. The University's expectation, therefore, is that departments will make every effort to temporarily reassign the subject of an investigation, and utilize paid investigatory suspensions only in extreme circumstances. When there is an allegation of sexual harassment, for example, it may be sufficient to temporarily reassign the subject of the investigation and require that there be no contact with the complainant until the investigation is completed.
For an investigatory suspension to be warranted, both of the following conditions must be met:
- Management has a reasonable belief that an employee’s continued presence in the workplace creates an imminent threat to the health, safety, or welfare of the employee, other employees, students/patients/customers, or data/property, and
- Management is initiating an investigation to determine whether disciplinary action is warranted.
Although the provision for investigatory suspension appears only in the AFSCME contract, the principles described here may be applied to exempt merit and P&S staff as well (with the exception that we do not retroactively convert paid time into unpaid time for P&S staff).
Application of Rules During Suspension:
Because the employee remains in paid status during an investigatory suspension, University work rules and policies continue to apply. For example, the employee must remain available during that employee's scheduled shift. If an employee is unavailable without notice and authorization, the employee may be regarded as absent without leave and subject to progressive discipline up to and including termination. The Sample Notice of Investigatory Suspension clarifies management's expectations for the affected employee.
Conversion to Disciplinary Suspension:
Finally, pursuant to Article IV, Section 9 of the AFSCME collective bargaining agreement, management may recover the pay provided to the employee during the period of paid suspension, consistent with the disciplinary action. For example, if an employee is placed on a paid investigatory suspension for two days while the investigation is conducted, and management then determines that a one-day suspension is warranted, one of the two days of paid investigatory suspension can be retroactively converted to unpaid disciplinary suspension.
Circumstances may occur in which the need to remove an employee is emergent and obvious (e.g., when an employee commits an act of violence); under such conditions, staff should contact the Department of Public Safety by dialing 911. Where the need is not obvious, however, and because of the expectation that investigatory suspensions are to be used only in extreme circumstances, departments are urged to consult with their unit HR representatives.