Understanding employee write-up forms

Find out what belongs in an employee write-up form and why it's necessary to document improper work behavior.

by Ronna L. DeLoe, Esq.
updated February 07, 2023 ·  4min read

Completing employee write-up forms is part of an employer's or supervisor's job description. This is probably the least favorite part of your job, but it's necessary for many reasons, such as keeping records in case of future disputes.

Woman in office holds pen above form at desk with laptop

Employee write-up forms are especially important where disputes continue and later result in the need to terminate an employee. Employees also dislike employee write-up forms or disciplinary forms, but if you handle an ongoing situation properly, the employee will likely be more cooperative. and the work relationship may be salvaged.

Setting your employees' expectations

It's important for your company—no matter what its size—to give your employees instructions regarding what they can and cannot do at work. Some companies have handouts, and other businesses have detailed employee handbooks.

Each employee should get these materials when they're hired so they can read them before they begin working for the company. This way, they'll know what's expected of them from day one.

Prohibited behaviors also should be listed in the handbook. Some of the conduct that's not allowed will make sense—that is, behaviors that are obviously wrong, such as stealing or using drugs. Others may be specific to the work your company does. These behaviors can form the basis of an employee write-up, also known as an employee written warning.

Providing verbal warnings

Your employee handbook should indicate that the employer will give the employee one or two verbal warnings before a write-up occurs. The handbook also can give information about periodic performance reviews. It should specify that the employee won't receive a verbal warning if the behavior is so egregious, such as theft, which is usually grounds for instant termination.

The handbook should specifically indicate what behaviors qualify for immediate dismissal. The handbook also should indicate that the employer isn't looking to terminate employees but, rather, is looking to take corrective action to improve overall job performance. Usually the employer wants to keep the employee and is taking corrective measures to help the employee be better at their job.

What triggers an employee write-up form

Employee write-up forms may include disciplinary notices for:

  • Excessive tardiness or absences
  • Performing work in an unsatisfactory manner
  • Insubordination
  • Violating safety rules
  • Sexual harassment and discrimination against customers and co-workers
  • Inability to get along with co-workers and disrupting others' work
  • Theft of property, either from the company or a co-worker
  • Anything that constitutes a crime, such as assault
  • Improper interaction with customers
  • Violations of any of the company's written policies
  • Being under the influence of drugs or alcohol during work hours
  • Any other violation that doesn't fit into a particular category

The basic employee write-up form

Employers must give their employees even-handed treatment so that nobody can claim favoritism, discrimination, or unfair treatment. As an employer, it's important that you treat employees in a uniform manner; otherwise, there could be unlawful termination or discrimination lawsuits, or other claims against your company.

When filling out a standard employee write-up form, make sure you're specific, because you need to create a clear record of the unacceptable behavior. For example, instead of saying the employee was insubordinate too often, list the days and times the employee was insubordinate, along with what the employee did or said that was insubordinate.

Be specific, but also be matter-of-fact, without analyzing the employee. The employee write-up form should read like a business paper or report, without injecting your personal feelings. If the employee states why they're acting out, you can include it, but don't add it unless the employee volunteers why they're behaving that way.

Specific contents of an employee write-up form

An employee write-up form should contain enough information so your company can present a record in the event the employee seeks unemployment insurance, files a lawsuit, or files a discrimination claim with the government. The more detailed the employee's record of work-related issues, the better chance your company has to defend itself against wrongful termination or any other claim that isn't justified.

The write-up form should contain:

  • The employee's name, position, official job title, and ID number if applicable
  • Whether this is the first written warning (or other number)
  • What the employee did that warranted a write-up, in simple terms (for example, the employee had excessive absences)
  • The date the employee's improper behavior occurred
  • A description of the improper behavior
  • The location and time of the improper behavior, and any witnesses
  • What you need the employee to improve, and how they can improve
  • Any previous infractions similar to the current one
  • Input from the employee, in writing, as to how they will improve and what they will change
  • What's next if the behavior happens again, and how many days the employee has to fix the issue (such as a probationary period)
  • A statement that the employee understands what they're signing
  • The employee's signature and date
  • The supervisor's signature and date, and upper management's signature
  • A note on the document if the employee won't sign

While not the most enjoyable task a supervisor has, completing employee write-up forms is a necessary part of managing your workers. The lessons learned from these forms can help improve an employee's performance or, if not, create the record that will be needed later, in the event you need to formally discipline or terminate the employee.

Ready to start your Employee Write Up Form? LEARN MORE
Ronna L. DeLoe, Esq.

About the Author

Ronna L. DeLoe, Esq.

Ronna L. DeLoe is a freelance writer and a published author who has written hundreds of legal articles. She does family … Read more

This portion of the site is for informational purposes only. The content is not legal advice. The statements and opinions are the expression of the author, not LegalZoom, and have not been evaluated by LegalZoom for accuracy, completeness, or changes in the law.