Effective Written Warnings: What’s Important from an Unemployment Perspective?
great TIP from our client service team –
are an aspect of progressive discipline that effectively ensures an employee understands
what is expected of them. Warnings or corrective actions help an employee understand
that a performance problem or opportunity for improvement exists and help the employee
overcome those performance problems and satisfy job expectations.
unemployment agencies look for warnings, in most instances, to determine if the claimant
was discharged for misconduct—a deliberate or willful violation of company rules.
Effective documentation is crucial, as many times the employer will have the burden
of proof with the state agency. States consider it the employer’s responsibility
to ensure that all employees are aware of company rules, policies, and procedures. Proper
documentation can make a difference in the outcome of your case. Missing
or incomplete documentation will lead to a failure to prove misconduct.
for the Warning
aside time to review the problem
the events surrounding the problem
the alternative choices—are there any?
an employer issues an employee handbook or rules, retain an acknowledgement of receipt
in the employee’s file. When changes are made to policies, another signed acknowledgement
of the update must be obtained.
policies and procedures should, if possible, be posted.
consistent: enforce rules and policies uniformly and ensure that disciplinary action
being taken is in accordance with the company policy and/or prior disciplinary action.
counseling sessions and warnings should be documented in writing—even if only informal
disciplinary action should be administered by authorized personnel in a timely manner.
documentation for at least 18 months and keep it readily available to ensure timely
responses to the state.
of a Good Written Warning
Violation – Provide
a detailed synopsis of the event which occurred including all facts, dates/times and
witnesses. Clearly state what the observed behavior was and why it was unacceptable.
Clearly outline exactly what policy was violated.
Action or How to Improve – State
or reaffirm what the expected behavior or standard is and what changes are expected.
Consequences – Inform
the worker what the consequences will be if the standard is not consistently adhered
to. For example, state “further violations will result in more severe discipline,
which may include discharge.” Include expected time period to rectify (e.g., 30 days
to improve) and consequences and next steps should there be no improvement.
Action Plan and Comments
of Employee – Ensure
the employee acknowledges having received the warning (signs and dates).
of Witness – Whenever
possible, involve a witness so two people will be able to testify with firsthand knowledge
regarding the counseling session should an unemployment hearing arise.
good written warning is clear and legible and does not use opinion or judgment words.
Focus is placed on words which indicate violation of rules. Avoid using general statements,
e.g., “poor performance,” to describe willful or deliberate violations of rules within
the employee’s control. Remember, you know what happened but the state does not.
to Do If An Employee Won’t Sign the Warning
employee’s signature is not an admission of guilt or an agreement with everything
on the form. Its primary purpose is to show that the employee was aware of the possible
consequences for a future incident. Here
are some alternatives if the employee refuses to sign the form.
that the employee is admitting nothing only showing an understanding of possible consequences. Offer
the employee a chance to tell their side of the story which they can sign and date.
a line on the form and simply ask the employee to initial the form showing they received
a witness present who can attest to the fact that the employee was given the form
and had the consequences explained to them. Then have the witness sign the form and
note “employee refused to sign.”
This weblog is sponsored by TALX.
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