The DO’s and DON’T’s of Written Warnings: What Employers
Need to Know?

Written warnings are commonly used to help guide employers
with their progressive discipline policy, however it can be difficulty deciding
how and when to implement them.

What elements should
an employer include in a written warning, and how detailed should written
warnings be?

When creating written warnings employers want to provide as
much information possible in their answers. Detailed responses will help create
a timeline and ensure there is no unanswered questions after employees review
the written warning. Including; the date of the warning, the employee’s name,
the name and position of the person issuing the discipline, the type of
discipline, a detailed description of the occurrence, the date of occurrence
,and the specific policy that the employee violated.

What should employers
exclude from a written warning?

There are general guidelines for employers to follow when
drafting employee discipline to avoid legal conclusions. Rather than including
generalized statements about the issue it’s more efficient to identify the
specific policy violation.  Majority of
the time employer polices are more extensive compared to the public law.

Should employers
attach documents to the written warnings that would support the supervisor’s

In some cases, yes, attaching additional documentation could
be beneficial. It’s more helpful for the employees when they are given as much
information as possible. Attaching a photo helps when establishing a
justification for a discipline that an employer has imposed.

Should employers
mention any warning and/or actions it has previously taken against the

Yes. As long as the warnings are verbal or written, and the
actions occur within the past five years. They also have to be relevant with
the conduct at issue in the current discipline

Should a written
detail the impact of the problem at issue?

It can be helpful. Describing the impact of an employee’s
misconduct raises awareness regarding the employee’s misconduct raises
awareness regarding the effects on the business and towards other employees.

How might an employer
explain, in the written warning, that if the employee does not improve his or
her performance, the employer will take further disciplinary action?

By implementing this type of language it helps establish a
tone towards the employees. It notifies the employee about all possible
consequences of their actions and if they fail to improve. In this process it’s
useful for the employer to keep a written document on the employee’s
disciplinary history in a written warning, to create a pattern of behavior,
which would end with termination if they don’t improve their performance.

Does whether the
employer is unionized affect the wording of warning letters? What about the
inclusion of appeal rights?

Yes is does affect the wording of warning letters. Employers
need to do research and see if there are any procedural requirements for
discipline under a collective bargaining agreement. During any investigatory
interviews all unionized members have the right to have a union representative
present during any investigation, but only if they request it prior to
receiving the written warning. If employers fail to cooperate it diminishes
their validity. However, unless the collective bargaining agreement
specifically requires it, employers are not required to notify unionized
employees of any appeal or grievance that they might have under the collective
bargaining agreement.

At Converge HR Solutions, we
specialize in handling all Human Resource needs, including progressive
discipline policies and corrective action. We can assist your company in
understanding how to properly administer these policies.. To learn more about
what Converge has to offer, visit our website at You can also email us directly at or give us a call at 610-296-8550

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