Ask HR: What Should We Do If Our Employee Won't Sign a Written Warning?

Just when you think you’ve heard it all, one of your employees stumps you with a question you haven’t heard before. The pros at the HR Support Center really have heard it all—at least, until tomorrow.

Here is a recent question and expert advice from HR On-Demand, one of the features available to HR Support Center subscribers.

If an employee refuses to sign the documentation for a written warning, how should we respond?

Answer from Sarah, HR Pro:
When an employee refuses to sign a warning, we recommended you write "refused to sign" at the bottom of the notice. It is best if you have more than one person witness and attest to this refusal. Ideally, you and another manager would sign under this notation.

The employee’s refusal to sign the warning does not negate what was written. The employee still needs to comply with the requirements set out in the written warning.

The decision about whether to take additional action for the refusal to sign is case specific. In many instances, it is best to stick with the disciplinary procedure of whatever the written warning was about and take no further disciplinary action based on the employee not signing. This is especially true if the refusal is based on a grievance of the employee with regard to the underlying issue.

In some instances, however, the employee’s refusal and surrounding actions (yelling, cursing, etc.) may constitute insubordination, which would make additional discipline appropriate. In any case, upper management should be the one to review the write-up and the circumstances and make the call on any further discipline.

Sarah has extensive Human Resources experience in the legal, software, security and property preservation industries. She has a Business Communications degree from Villa Julie College (now Stevenson University) and a master’s certificate in Human Resources Management and a Strategic Organizational Leadership certification from Villa Nova University. Sarah is also a member of the National Society of Human Resources Management and has managed the HR function for small startup companies to mid-sized/large organizations.

Related resources:
The HR Pro's Guide: 5 Ways to Make an Impact at Work
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