Do They Have To Tell Me When They Warn Me?

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about rules of discipline:

I work in a chemical plant. I was recently leaving my workstation to go home for the day. I violated a plant policy by not having my safety glasses on in a warehouse area I was passing through as I was leaving. My immediate supervisor and her boss saw me, stopped me, and said, “You must wear your safety glasses”. I disputed their claim, since I was leaving for the day, but later found out that they were correct; I am required to wear them whether I am leaving for the day, coming in, or in the middle of my shift.

The next day, I began wondering if my supervisor would consider our conversation discipline, so I sent her an e-mail. In the e-mail, I stated that I needed to know if our little talk was coaching, a verbal warning, or any other form of discipline. I also asked if she had documented it. She sent me back an e-mail that stated that the incident as called “coaching” and that it was documented in a company spreadsheet as discipline. I never would have known that this conversation was discipline in any form had I not asked later. I almost didn’t even ask. Do I have a right as an employee to know when I have been disciplined, or can the company discipline me (build a file, call it a “verbal warning” or “coaching”, etc) without letting me know? Is there a law regarding this?

Signed, Rule Breaker

Dear Rule Breaker:

The point is that Safety is Job One in every company, and you committed a safety violation. Had this been the second, third or fourth time, they could have terminated your employment. As for whether this is a coaching, warning or whatever, you can contact Human Resources and find out exactly which it is. You have a legal right to “view” your file. Do they have to tell you? When they suspend or terminate you, they normally do; otherwise, no they don’t have to tell you anything. Have a great day!

Dan Kearney, Guest Respondent & HR Manager The Workplace Doctors Creating a workplace that is effective is an on-going collaborative process. At its best it is a process that is one of civility, respect and engagement of all in creating and implementing the rules and supporting and encouraging one another–one that might be symbolized by WEGO.

William Gorden