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What to do when worker refuses to sign disciplinary memo

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in Centerpiece,HR Management,Human Resources

Disciplinary memoEvery manager knows the importance of disciplinary documentation. Ideally, the information is accurate and descriptive, with all the i’s dotted and t’s crossed. But what happens if an employee refuses to sign his disciplinary memo? Your carefully prepared documentation still stands, regardless. The question is how to deal with the employee.

Make sure the employee understands what signing the document means. Explain that his signature simply acknowledges that he received and re­­viewed the disciplinary document; it does not indicate an admission of guilt or his agreement with the contents. Con­­sider adding this explanation above the em­­ployee signature line on disciplinary forms.

Make sure the employee understands what not signing the document means. Explain that his refusal to sign does not in any way change your ability to enforce the disciplinary measure and his responsibility to abide by it.

In general, an employer has the right to terminate an employee for refusing to sign disciplinary documentation.

Add a “refused to sign” line. A simple sentence declaring the employee refused to sign the memo will offer your organization extra protection. Make sure you and another manager (or HR) initial it.

Tip: Get the employee’s oral agreement. He should be able to answer “yes” regarding whether the document has been discussed with him and whether he understands it. If there is any confusion (not disagreement), then review the applicable parts until he agrees that he understands. If the employee still refuses to sign, you can indicate the employee’s oral acknowledgment of receipt and understanding, and his refusal to sign.

Give a copy to the employee. He may still later try to claim that he never received the document, but at least he won’t have a valid point.

Allow the employee to include a rebuttal, if he asks. The rebuttal gives the employee a chance to be heard; em­­ployees who feel they have no voice in the workplace are more likely to want to be heard in court. And it serves as proof that the employee reviewed the document. Just be sure to reiterate that the employee’s disagreement doesn’t change the content or consequence of the warning.

Warning: Don’t allow the employee to mark up the original document. By doing so, you’d make it easy for him to claim in court that you were in full agreement with all the changes he had made. Have him write his rebuttal on a separate sheet.

If the rebuttal reveals a legitimate issue, investigate the matter and re-evaluate the disciplinary decision if necessary.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Kyle March 11, 2019 at 5:19 am

What if the reason for the disciplinary wasn’t the employees fault and feels he can’t sign otherwise he’s admitting guilt when he’s innocent


Eddie owsley jr July 26, 2018 at 2:06 am

Eddie owsley jr here I got one thoes memorandum. The other day July 23 2018 by my superior pete .never heard of it till then he kept asking me do I understand I said no I do not. I’m almost deaf I do wear hearing aids and read lips. They are aware of my disability. He ask me to sign it I said no .for the I didn’t no what it meant till today I look it up here I am July 25 2018 ok I got 9th grade education. And a GED what do I do now


Cruze Tony July 17, 2018 at 2:27 pm

Can employer retract written warning due to nature of misconduct and what happens if employee refuses to sign withdrawal letter?


Tanya brewer April 3, 2017 at 6:43 pm

Can we refuse to sign a toolbox … if it only benefits employers and not employees.. eg bullying


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