Why giving a worker a verbal reprimand usually isn’t enough

| Jan 26, 2021 | Business Law |

As a manager, executive or owner of a company, you probably have more demands for your attention than time to offer. Most days, you likely have to make difficult decisions about what tasks to prioritize and what ones to delegate to others, delay or do in a faster and less-intensive fashion.

If you have a worker who keeps coming into work late or starting arguments with team members, you might decide to pull them aside and talk with them. Verbally reprimanding them could be enough to get them to change their behavior. Additionally, having a quick disciplinary talk will take up less of your time than formal disciplinary action.

Unfortunately, if you rely on verbal discipline, it could result in claims against your Colorado business. If you have to fire the worker, they may try to claim that you violated their rights as a worker.

Verbal discipline sessions are hard to prove in court

If you have had to discuss chronic absenteeism and tardiness with the same worker a half dozen times, you may eventually decide to fire them. Colorado is an at-will state, which typically means you have the right to terminate a worker’s employment for any legal reason or no reason at all.

However, workers can still bring wrongful termination claims if they feel that an employer’s actions violated their rights. For example, workers might claim that their firing was the result of discrimination or an act of retaliation. If every disciplinary effort was informal and involved a discussion between you and the problem employee, it will effectively be your word against theirs in court.

Documentation is key to the protection of your company

The easiest way to show that the circumstances justify the termination of a worker is to produce detailed documentation about habitual problems with job performance, attendance or attitude. Written discipline records can show a pattern of behavior and protect your business from spurious claims made by disgruntled former employees.

While it will likely take longer to write up an incident report, discuss it with the worker and secure their signature on the written reprimand than to just talk about the issue, that extra time spent is an investment in the long-term protection of your company.