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How to Handle an Employee Who Refuses to Sign Disciplinary Forms

Have you ever had an employee refuse to sign a disciplinary notice? It doesn’t matter if you have enough evidence of wrongdoing to prevail in a court of law, the employee refuses.

First, you explain that it is company policy that they sign. After all, that’s why there is a place on the disciplinary form for the employee’s signature. No luck.

Next, you try to reason with them. You may explain that signing only acknowledges that they received the document, not that they agree with everything. Still no luck.

Finally, exasperated, you tell them you don’t know why they are being so stubborn. The employee just stares at you and still doesn’t sign.

Don’t get mad. Don’t get into an argument. Simply note on your documentation a simple four-word phrase: “Employee refused to sign.”  Then initial and date the document yourself next to your notation. That’s all you need to do.

An employee signature is not required on a disciplinary notice for it to be effective. If an employee refuses to sign, about the worst thing you can do is make that an issue. Instead, make the note that the employee refused to sign. Then, when the document is needed for future indiscretions (and with this employee, you know there will be future indiscretions), you have the prior disciplines in the file and when the employee says they don’t recall those, you can simply remind them that they refused to sign.

On the other hand, if you allow the employee to refuse to sign and then you fail to note anything on the document, the employee can argue that he/she never received it. That is not a position you ever want to be in and is something that is easily avoidable. Documentation containing a note stating that the employee refused to sign is almost always admissible before an unemployment referee or a judge.

For questions about this or any other labor and employment topic, please do not hesitate to contact a member of our Labor and Employment Department.