Course Description

The vast majority of citizen complaints and internal acts of employee misconduct encountered by government agencies are generated by a small number of problem individuals. It is crucial, therefore, that government agencies can successfully discipline these few “bad apples.”

In other cases, disciplinary action is necessary to hold essentially good employees accountable for misconduct that threatens agency operations. In these cases, making discipline stick is actually in the interest of the employee, as it can serve as a much needed “wake up call” to an employee before performance issues become so serious that termination is required or public safety is threatened.

Unfortunately, research has revealed that when disciplinary actions are reviewed by an outside source (i.e., grievance arbitrator or civil service board), the employer’s discipline is overturned or reduced about half of the time.

This course covers the findings of a DCG study of hundreds of public employee discipline cases that went to arbitration review. This course reveals the five most common reasons arbitrators give for overturning a public agency’s employee discipline. This information is utilized to provide practical steps public employers can take to ensure fairness in their disciplinary processes and significantly increase the likelihood their disciplinary decisions are upheld.

This course is designed for anyone responsible for investigating or disciplining employee misconduct within a government agency, from first-line supervisors to human resources personnel to agency leaders.

The Problem:

  • The Damage Caused by Toxic Employees—to the Organization, to Co-workers, to Supervisors and to the Public
  • Organizational Failure to Address Performance Issues Before Isolated Instances Become Habitual Misconduct
  • External Arbitration as a Barrier to Vitally Needed Discipline

The Research on Grievance Arbitration:

  • Public Sector Arbitration Outcomes
  • Overview of Our Study—Why Do Supervisors Fail to Make Discipline Stick?

Disproportionate Punishment:

  • Same Misconduct – Different Outcomes
  • What Factors Can and Cannot Be Considered
  • The Potential Benefits of Using a Discipline Matrix

Insufficient Evidence:

  • “Clear and Convincing” Evidentiary Standard
  • Conducting Thorough and Impartial Investigations
  • Investigating the Investigators

Due Process Violations:

  • Most Common Agency Errors
  • Loudermill Rights & The Daugherty Test

Procedural Violations:

  • Collective Bargaining Agreements
  • State Administrative Rules

Employee’s Past Record of Good Performance:

  • Documenting Prior Performance Accurately
  • Using the “Objectively Reasonable” Standard
  • Demonstrating Resultant Harm to the Organization

Summary & Conclusion:

  • What are the Risks Associated with Failing to Discipline where Necessary?
  • Taking the Time to Conduct Disciplinary Proceedings the Right Way
  • Creating Policies that Encourage Supervisors to Engage in Disciplinary Actions that Stick


Director, Dolan Consulting Group

| Attorney Matt Dolan

Matt Dolan is a licensed attorney in the State of Illinois, who specializes in training and advising public safety agencies in matters of labor and employment law. His practice experience focuses on employment discrimination claims brought under federal law, including Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII"), the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"), and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act ("ADEA"). He received his Bachelor's Degree in Political Science from DePaul University and his J.D. from Loyola University Chicago School of Law.

Matt serves as a public safety instructor with Dolan Consulting Group. He has trained and advised thousands of public safety professionals throughout the United States in matters of legal liability related to personnel management.

Course curriculum

  • 1

    Before You Start

    • Consent Questions

    • Course Workbook

  • 2

    Day 1

    • Day 1: Section 1

    • Day 1: Section 2

    • Day 1: Section 3

    • Day 1: Section 4

    • Day 1: Section 5

    • Day 1: Section 6

    • Day 1: Section 7