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2.1.16 Addressing Conduct and Performance Issues

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Approved by the Vice President for Human Resources.
Last Updated

Formerly Known As Policy Number: 22.15

This Guide Memo provides guidance on when and how to use corrective action (including termination of employment) to deal with unsatisfactory performance, unsatisfactory conduct, or a combination of both.


Applies to all academic staff and regular employees (who have successfully completed the Trial Period) as defined in Guide Memo 2.2.1: Definitions, except Senior Staff. For policies that apply to employees covered by collective bargaining agreements, refer to the applicable agreements between Stanford University and SEIU Higher Education Workers Local 2007, and Stanford University and the Stanford Deputy Sheriffs' Association. Agreements can be found at Labor Relations & Collective Bargaining.  

1. Policy Statement

It is the policy of the University that employees are expected to carry out their assigned tasks and responsibilities as instructed and to conduct themselves in accordance with reasonable rules and expectations for the work place.

University policy is that employees cannot be terminated without some form of cause. "Cause" is defined broadly as any legitimate business reason, including but not limited to:

  • Failure to satisfactorily perform job duties or meet job requirements
  • Unavailability for work
  • Excessive absences or tardiness
  • Disclosure or misuse of confidential information
  • Damage or misuse of University property
  • Insubordination
  • Failure to follow University policies and procedures
  • Failure to return from an approved leave
  • Failure or refusal to fully cooperate with a university investigation and/or request for information
  • Unsatisfactory conduct or
  • Any other conduct or acts detrimental to or that disrupt the reputation or operations of the University

Corrective action is taken when an employee has not conformed to performance or conduct expectations. University policy does not require corrective action be taken in any formal steps or order, and recognizes that the determination of appropriate corrective action will depend on the facts and circumstances of the particular situation. Moreover, some forms of conduct, including any form of gross misconduct, warrant immediate termination.

Refer to Guide Memo 2.1.11: Staff Grievance Policy for information regarding corrective actions that can be grieved.

2. Purpose

The purpose of this policy is to make clear to supervisors and employees when corrective action or termination can be imposed.

3. Guide to Supervisors

a. Overview

It is the responsibility of the supervisor to provide honest and constructive performance feedback to their direct reports.

b. Notice

Supervisors are normally required to give written notice (e.g., email, memo, performance evaluation, letter, etc.) that performance or behavior is unsatisfactory and improvement is needed before terminating an employee. Such notice may or may not be preceded by verbal coaching/counseling. However, prior notice is not necessary in cases where immediate termination is appropriate (please consult with local Human Resources office).

c. Termination

As mentioned in section 3.b, supervisors are normally required to provide notice to an employee of performance deficiencies before termination. However, there is no requirement that notice be provided before termination of employment in all cases. A supervisor must consult with the applicable manager(s) within their school/unit and their local Human Resources office regarding a possible termination. Termination must be reviewed and approved in advance by University Human Resources-Employee & Labor Relations.