Last Updated 10/18/2019
If an employer believes a worker has failed to perform the duties of the job, the employer may choose to record the worker's performance in the worker's employee file. Often known as "write-ups," these records are significant because they can be used to justify firing an employee and in legal processes that can impact a worker's future employment.
Generally, employees are asked to sign write-ups to show they have seen and understood them, but what options do workers have if they disagree with their employer's judgment and do not want to sign the document? Before discussing employees' options, it is important to understand a few key concepts of U.S. labor law.
In the United States, most employers hire employees under at-will agreements. This means that employers can legally fire their employees for nearly any reason, at any time, without warning. At the same time, employees are also legally able to quit without warning or reason. There are, however, some exceptions to at-will policies.
At-will employment has largely become the default with the U.S. labor market. However, employers can choose to create their own employment contracts, and those contracts may lay out constraints on the employer's and/or the employee's ability to terminate a contract.
Additionally, labor forces that are unionized are able to circumvent at-will contracts by means of their power of collective bargaining. There are also some state and federal limitations on an employer's ability to terminate an employee's contract.
It is important to understand the basic concepts of at-will employment when discussing write-ups and employees' options when dealing with them because employers often have the ability to fire an employee if they do not comply with the employer's request, i.e., asking an employee to sign a write-up.
If an employee is presented with a write-up, it is worth their time to read the document thoroughly; some write-ups do not have any language saying the employee agrees with the write-up, just that they have read it.
If an employee is written-up and disputes the statement in the write-up, the employee may be able to submit a written rebuttal that can be filed alongside the write-up. This provides the employee an opportunity to have their dispute officially recorded.
Although at-will employment provides employees with significant freedoms in terms of firing workers, there are boundaries. Federal law states that employers cannot discriminate against workers or fire workers based on the worker's protected status, including:
Although there are both state and federal regulations regarding wrongful termination, navigating that legal terrain alone can be daunting and difficult. If a worker feels they have been treated unjustly by their employer, it is recommended that they seek the assistance and advice of an experienced legal professional.
Contact a qualified employment attorney to make sure your rights are protected.