Written Warnings

Question:

Is a company required by law to keep your written warning and your written response to it on file?

Signed,

Warned and Responded


Answer:

Dear Warned and Responded:

Short question; long answer. Warnings are documented to protect the company from employee lawsuits. HR Managers document the events surrounding the offense and document everything surrounding that event. Most companies have a “progressive” discipline policy. That is to say, first offense is a verbal warning, second offense is a written warning, third offense is a suspension and the fourth time, termination. Keep in mind, each progressive offense must be the same offense. For example, absenteeism or being tardy. But each type of offense has different weights attached to it. Some offenses you get only one written warning and if you do it again you’re terminated. Some offenses are automatic termination. Next, documentation is kept due to the courts. In Illinois, you document the offenses and if termination occurs, then the Illinois Dept of Employment Security will contact you to determine if the claimant is eligible for unemployment compensation. In Cook County, if an employee is terminated due to excessive absenteeism and even if it’s documented, the employee will get unemployment compensation. Anywhere else in Illinois, the employee would be deemed ineligible

If the employee wants to fight the termination, the claim doesn’t go to court but to the Illinois Dept of Human Rights (in Cook County or Springfield – go figure!) to hear the case from all parties involved. They make a determination/ruling, then the claim can now go to court. The point is this: Without documentation, how can the company prove its allegations? *************************** Follow up from Tina Lewis Rowe To Warned and Responded: I think the essence of your question was to find out if there is a state or federal law that requires all employers to keep a record of all warnings, no matter what the nature of the warning, and also a copy of the employee’s written response to the warning. No, there is no law of that nature.

There are good reasons to keep them, as Mr. Kearney pointed out, and the absence of them might be used against an employer if there were a lawsuit related to bias, whistle blowing or similar claims. But, there are no laws requiring them in every case.

I suggest though, that you contact the department of labor in your state and give them your specific scenario, so they can give you information about that specific type of situation.

Best wishes!

Dan Kearney, HR Manager

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina had a thirty-three year career in law enforcement, serving with the Denver Police Department from 1969-1994 and was the Presidential United States Marshal for Colorado from 1994-2002. She provides training to law enforcement organizations and private sector groups and does conference presentations related to leadership, workplace communications and customized topics. Her style is inspirational with humor.