Can I Ask For A Witness When I Am Reprimanded?

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about reprimand witness:

If I’m being taken out the back of my workplace to be told off for something the employers overheard, do I have the legal right to ask to have someone present with me (a friend or family member etc.)?

Signed, Need Support

Dear Need Support:

I see you are writing from outside the U.S., so I don’t know what labor laws apply there. However, I did some research and do not think there is a labor law in your country that covers that issue. There isn’t a law in the U.S. about it. If your work has an employee’s union, there may be a requirement that you be allowed to have union representation. There may be an HR policy about it, if your company is large enough to have an HR section. I don’t know of any business where someone from outside the workplace (family or non-work friends) would be allowed to be present.

The important thing in your case is, why do you want the witness? If you think you will be treated inappropriately (cursed at in a threatening way, physically threatened,etc.) ask to have another employee or another supervisor or manager present to ensure fairness. If you want someone present to help convince your boss that you are not guilty of what you are being accused of saying, your witness can write that in a statement and give it to your manager (or you can have it with you). If you did say the thing you are being accused of saying, but you feel it was true or that it doesn’t deserve a reprimand, maybe you will have the opportunity to say that anyway. But, you still could get a reprimand for it.

You describe the situation as being “told off”, and that may be what will happen. However, being told off is better than losing your job. So, perhaps you can just move through this, learn from it and move on. It may be that by the time you get this response, you will have already been talked to and warned. If so, keep in mind that many employees go through rough times then come back to be well-liked and respected by the very boss who chewed them out–and they learn to like that boss as well. Most people–bosses and employees–want work to go smoothly. They don’t like conflict and upsetting situations. They don’t like gossip, rumor-mongering or angry complaining. And, of course, employers like to be treated with respect for their positions.

Giving or getting a reprimand is miserable for everyone involved. So, if you can find a way to get past this and focus on work to the best of your ability, you may find that this smooths over rapidly. If this workplace is not one where you can be happy and productive, you may need to do what Dr. Gorden often suggests and “vote with your feet”, by finding a place with mutual respect where you can feel better about work. Best wishes to you with this. If you have the time and wish to do so, let us know what happens and how you handled it.

Tina Lewis Rowe