Proper application of a progressive discipline policy can be make-or-break for an unemployment case. If you’re trying to prove a pattern of behavior and support a claimant’s knowledge of company policy, a well-written warning builds a solid foundation. Here are a few tips to guide you toward the perfect written warning.

Give it on time. Warnings should be provided at the earliest opportunity after a violation is known. This way the incident is fresh for whoever is preparing the warning. Further, if too much time passes, the state unemployment office will question why action was not taken sooner.

Keep it simple, yet specific. The warning should hone in on a particular policy violation. You want to describe the exact behavior (including what, when, where, and by whom it was witnessed/discovered) without the warning becoming a ‘laundry list’ of every minor dissatisfaction the company may have had. The core of the warning should be what prompted it and why your policy calls for it to be given.

Get appropriate acknowledgment. It should be clear who was present when the warning was given including whether the claimant acknowledged the warning with their signature or refused to do so. An additional witness to the warning can be very useful in an unemployment case should the veracity or content of either the warning or how it was given come into question, so keep that in mind as well.

Cite the relevant policy and future repercussions. What policy prompted the warning, why is a written warning the appropriate response, and what will follow if similar future infractions occur? The warning should answer each of these questions. If the employee is unclear on any of those answers, the unemployment office won’t understand either.

With these tips in mind neither the claimant nor the state unemployment office should have any question on how or why you enacted your discipline. The last thing a case needs is to have a warning disregarded for being unclear or inappropriately given. With a perfect written warning, the state can focus on the claimant’s decision to violate your policy and bring you one step closer to a favorable ruling


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