Writing a Letter of Reprimand: A Guide to Why, When, and How

Writing a Letter of Reprimand: A Guide to Why, When, and How
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What is a Letter of Reprimand?

A letter of reprimand is an official company document that is issued to an employee for misconduct in the workplace. The letter serves as official notice that an infraction has occurred, defines what the infraction or violation is, when it took place, what rules were violated and what corrective actions must take place. A letter of reprimand generally is issued only after verbal warnings have been given and not complied with.

A formal letter of reprimand can be given by any superior to any employee. Generally, the employee’s direct supervisor or manager handles any discipline issues, though in some larger corporations the Human Resources department is also involved. While it may not be a pleasant experience, as a manager or business owner, correction of employee misconduct is necessary in order to maintain workplace safety and the smooth operation of your business.

What Warrants a Letter of Reprimand?

As an employer, issuing a letter of reprimand to an employee is sometimes a necessary procedure. Once an employee has continued with repeated violations, even after multiple verbal warnings, a letter of reprimand is the next step in correcting the behavior. This written warning carries much more weight in an employee record, as it usually is only issued after repeated attempts to correct the problem in other ways. Examples of situations and behaviors that may warrant a letter of reprimand are:

  • excessive lateness
  • excessive absence without good cause
  • excessive breaks
  • foul and offensive language
  • dress code violations
  • safety violations
  • rude customer service
  • unauthorized computer use
  • any situation that directly contradicts the procedures outlined in the employee handbook

Serious issues, such as safety violations, may warrant the immediate issuance of a reprimand letter, rather than a series of verbal warnings. In this case, the course of action for correcting the situation should include immediate compliance with all safety regulations. Repeated safety violations can put everyone at risk or injury or death and should never be taken lightly.

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What Should Be in a Letter of Reprimand?

Unlike a verbal warning for behavior, which can be more casual, a letter of reprimand to an employee should be treated as a serious issue as it becomes part of the employee’s permanent record. A basic letter of reprimand should include the employee’s name, the date of the incident, the date the letter is being issued, a description of the problem, suggestions for improving the situation and a place for both the manager or owner and the employee to sign acknowledging receipt of the letter.

In addition, a letter of reprimand should include if it is a first time violation or if there have been previous written warnings given for the same type of infraction. Keeping an accurate paper trail of things such as safety violations can protect the employer in case of an accident. As for other violations of a less dangerous nature, such as chronic lateness or unauthorized computer usage, a history of repeated written warnings can become grounds for terminating an employee.