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Updated On: Nov 04, 2010

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MSPB Recommends that Agencies Provide More Information and Flexibility to Supervisors on Alternative Discipline
Alternative discipline is an approach to addressing misconduct that enables supervisors to consider the nature of the offense, and the personality of the employee, when crafting a response that has the greatest potential to help the employee to avoid future misconduct.  For example, under traditional discipline, Federal supervisors have the authority to suspend an employee without pay if the employee misbehaves— but what if the supervisor thinks another method may have a better chance of changing the employee’s behavior?
The U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB) has just released a report, Alternative Discipline: Creative Solutions for Agencies to Address Misconduct, that looks at what agencies are doing in this area.  One of the report’s major findings is that few agencies have a formal policy on alternative discipline, and many agencies do not provide formal training or guidance.  This leaves supervisors and organizations to learn about alternative discipline on their own.
“Alternative discipline is a great tool for supervisors to consider if they have an employee who is engaging in misconduct,” says MSPB Chairman Neil A.G. McPhie.  “It empowers proposing and deciding officials to work with the misbehaving employee in order to craft a solution that has the greatest potential to change that employee’s conduct.  Traditional discipline should remain an option for management.  If the supervisor and the employee can agree on a better approach, however, we encourage agencies to consider alternative discipline.”
The MSPB’s support for using alternative approaches to traditional discipline dates back to its early days after its formation following the Civil Service Reform Act of 1978.  In a landmark 1981 case, Douglas v.
Veterans Administration, the Board held that one important factor for agencies to consider when determining the correct penalty is, “the adequacy and effectiveness of alternative sanctions to deter such conduct in the future.”
The MSPB report contains information on how different agencies are using— or not using—alternative discipline and includes a helpful section on important case law for parties to consider when drafting an alternative discipline agreement.

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