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7 tips for documenting employee discipline

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in Leaders & Managers,Office Management,People Management,Records Retention

You need to be careful when writing up employees for disciplinary reasons. That's because how you document the problem can cause problems if an employee files a lawsuit. To protect yourself and the organization, follow these guidelines when documenting employee discipline:

1. Be consistent. Don't write up one person for a behavior that you ignore in other employees. When in doubt, check to see how similar problems have been documented in the past.

2. Be specific. Example of poor documentation: "Employee was late three times in the past month." Better: "Employee was 30 minutes late on Feb. 5; reason given: traffic. Employee was 45 minutes late on Feb. 9; reason given: overslept. Employee was an hour late on Feb. 23; reason given: car problems."

3. Write in a clear, factual manner. Note the policy or procedure that the employee has violated. Date the document, including the year.

4. Avoid emotional content, including personal impressions ("I think ..."), labels ("He's a whiner ..."), adjectives ("very unproductive ...") and drawing conclusions about the reasons for the employee's behavior. ("It's probably because of her divorce.")

5. State the consequences if the behavior continues. Example: "If the employee is tardy again this month, he will be fired."

6. Ask the employee to sign and date the document if it's going into his or her personnel file. If the employee refuses to sign, note that on the document.

7. Give employees an opportunity to respond in writing and include the response in their files.

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Esafe Fifita August 23, 2017 at 10:56 pm

I’m foreman and I’m trying to write up one my member of my crew for production work


Christy Hammer July 21, 2017 at 3:41 pm

If an employee was wrongfully written up. What should they do? They were given a task to complete via email and the manager did not give them a specific time or date to have it completed. Only 3 days had passed and the supervisor wrote them up. The employee was very shocked and caught off guard and felt pressure to sign the write up. Afterward the employee went to check his email and verified that there wasn’t a specific date or time given. Can the employee go back to the supervisor and request for the disciplinary action to be removed from their file?


Mike April 26, 2017 at 9:39 am

How long after a violation, do i have before its no longer valid?


Art July 5, 2017 at 9:01 am


It depends on the level of writing. I can generate an memo for record citing negative trending behavior citing several incidents of the course of 6 months (tracked on my calendar I.e. Tardiness/sick leave abuse/cotributing to toxic environment). These type of documents are used to establish the trend, also used for appraisals. When negative trending behavior continues past the memo, time to start having employee sign within 3 days of infraction.


Melanie rose February 3, 2017 at 3:41 pm

Boss threatens to write me up and does not show me or have me sign a write up document.is it a valid write up?


Zorah Williams June 9, 2017 at 4:42 am

No it is not…


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