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Written warnings to workers: some considerations for Ohio employers

Are you an Ohio employer thinking that your company should have a more fine-tuned policy for issuing written warnings to workers with performance-related or on-the-job behavioral problems?

Trust your instincts. If you’re preoccupied with that subject matter, it’s likely your company handbook could profit from a bit of attention and updating.

Here’s one reason why, as conveyed in a recent article authored by the Society for Human Resource Management, a prominent HR association: Deficient company policies invite liability and the opportunity for a disgruntled worker’s legal counsel to exploit ambiguity, inconsistency or some other alleged shortcoming. Some workers argue, for example, that written warnings are merely pretextual exercises allowing for an employer’s harassing conduct or unlawful attempts to terminate. Company owners need to be careful.

That means being direct and to the point. Specific reference should be made to conduct at issue, the reason why it violates company policy, next-step procedures for following through and action that will be taken if offending behavior is repeated

The “be specific” admonition” cited in the SHRM piece is critically important. It provides a valuable record for a company to spotlight if a worker should try to take an employment matter to court and sue for damages. So too is a neutral and unemotional narrative focused upon precisely what a targeted worker said or did and which specific policies that conduct violated.

Well-considered and tailored written policies addressing workplace rules and expectations help management keep workers duly informed, ensure continued compliance with legal requirements and help avoid litigation. Seasoned commercial attorneys from an established business law firm routinely assist valued clients by preparing and reviewing employee handbooks and manuals.

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