7 Tips for Documenting Employee Discipline


Wouldn’t it be wonderful if employees followed all company polices and did there job without complaining?  The truth is employees will break policies you have set and it is your job to properly discipline these employees. When choosing to discipline an employee you need to make sure to carefully document everything to back up your decision to protect yourself and the organization.

The article below was originally published by the Editors at HR Specialist 

See also: 5 Mistakes That Are Driving Your Employees Crazy! (And Driving Them to Quit)

You need to be careful when writing up employees for disciplinary reasons. How you document the issue can cause problems if an employee files a lawsuit. To protect yourself and the organization, follow these guidelines when documenting employee discipline:

1. Be consistent.

Don’t write up one person for a behavior that you ignore in other employees. When in doubt, check to see how similar problems have been documented in the past.

2. Be specific.

Example of poor documentation: “Employee was late three times in the past month.” Better: “Employee was 30 minutes late on Feb. 5; reason given: traffic. Employee was 45 minutes late on Feb. 9; reason given: overslept. Employee was an hour late on Feb. 23; reason given: car problems.”

3. Write in a clear, factual manner.

Note the policy or procedure that the employee has violated. Remember to date the document, including the year.

4. Avoid emotional content

Including personal impressions (“I think …”), labels (“He’s a whiner …”), adjectives (“very unproductive …”) and drawing conclusions about the reasons for the employee’s behavior (“It’s probably because of her divorce.”).

5. State the consequences

State the consequences if the behavior continues. Example: “If the employee is tardy again this month, he will be fired.”

6. Ask the employee to sign and date the document

Ask the employee to sign and date the document if it’s going into his or her personnel file. If the employee refuses to sign, note that on the document.

7. Give employees an opportunity to respond

Give employee an opportunity to respond in writing and include the response in their files.


What Should You Document?

  • Excessive tardiness, unexcused absences.
  • Incompetent job performance. Cite attempts you make to help the employee improve.
  • Failure to comply with policy or with established safety procedures.
  • Physical violence, verbal threats.
  • Complaints of sexual harassment or discrimination. Include details of your follow-up investigation.
  • Proven instances of on-the-job drunkenness or drug use.
  • Positive performance. (Ironically, failing to document a positive performance can strengthen an employee’s claims of discrimination. A file of all-bad comments may look like a setup.)


Use the Employers Resource Disciplinary Action form found here to help guide you when documenting the behavior and disciplinary action taken.

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