“Stay Out of Trouble! Properly Document Employee Disciplinary Actions”

Properly Documented disciplinary actions can save you From more headaches

Employee disciplinary actions are often the most scrutinized part of your duties as a Human Resources professional. If you don’t have the proper evidence and documentation to back up your decision, you could end up in court. At the very least, your documentation might not stand up if you need to protest an unemployment insurance claim. The following are a few do’s and don’ts of employee discipline:


  • Do state what happened. Make sure you are very specific so nothing is left to interpretation.
  • Do state what policy the employee violated. Attaching a copy of the policy and the signature showing the employee was aware of the policy is critical.
  • Do identify the way in which the employee’s behavior injured the company. This provides context, which may not be obvious to everyone involved.
  • Do provide specific instructions on how the employee can improve. Give concrete suggestions. Remember, the improvement plan must be both reasonable and attainable.
  • Do indicate consequences of this continued behavior. Be clear on what will happen if the situation is not remedied. This also protects you later if further infractions occur.
  • Do issue reprimands consistently. Everyone needs to be held to the same standard and consistency keeps you out of court.
  • Do follow up. Following up with either the employee, the supervisor, both, or just checking up on the records is important.


  • Don’t be vague. Do not leave the contents of this document up to interpretation.
  • Don’t nitpick. Some performance issues are best handled through consistent coaching and training and are not necessary to be documented through disciplinary action.
  • Don’t issue a reprimand or terminate an employee without a witness. This helps to minimize any questions over what occurred and to show that the discipline was actually given.
  • Don’t forget to file it in the personnel file. If the documentation is lost, it is like the discipline never occurred.
  • Don’t forget the employee signature line. It helps if there is language that states that the employee’s signature only signified receipt of the document and that you went over it – not that they agree with the action.

By following these documentation guidelines when administering employee discipline, you will put yourself in a much better legal standing. For more information on how documentation for unemployment insurance claims can reduce UI costs, visit us on the web at www.UnemploymentTracker.com.