Recently we had an employer ask about how to react to an employee who adamantly refused to sign its standard disciplinary warning form. The employee had been counseled regarding deteriorating work performance but took issue with the points raised by her manager as well as the required corrective actions. The employer asked whether the employee’s refusal to sign the warning should be considered a separate disciplinary matter.
In general, we advise employers not to overreact to employees who refuse to sign these types of performance reviews or disciplinary notices. The employer could explain to the employee that their signature confirms receipt of the notice and not their agreement with its contents. Regardless, considering such refusal as a separate disciplinary matter shifts focus from the underlying performance issues. It risks unnecessarily escalating the situation and exacerbating the employee’s view of the unfairness of the disciplinary process.
In most situations, the employer can simply note on the form that the employee was presented with the warning and refused to sign it. From the lawyer’s perspective, this should serve as adequate evidence that the employee was placed on notice of the performance issues and given an opportunity to correct them. If the employer eventually moves to terminate employment, this should be done without the distraction of controversy over the employee’s refusal to sign the warning.