Most employers have a formal disciplinary action policy in place to ensure employees are held accountable for their actions. These policies greatly vary from company to company. In some instances, the first disciplinary step is to offer coaching or counseling for the area that needs improvement. After the coaching session, you may give the employee an informal verbal warning. The second verbal warning is more serious than the first.
Written Verbal Warning
Whenever an employee receives a second verbal warning, a documentation of the warning should go into his personnel file. This is considered a “written verbal warning.” You may feel that by putting the warning in writing, it's no longer considered a verbal warning. This is not the case. Placing the warning in writing does not change the nature of the warning. It only provides evidence that the employee has completed the first step of a disciplinary action process.
Reasons for Documenting
By putting the second warning into the employee's file, you get his attention. It helps him understand the seriousness of the matter, which may prevent future disciplinary action. By including documentation in his personnel file, you also cover yourself from backlash. An employee can easily claim wrongful termination or unfairness if he feels there is nothing on record to prove he violated company policy. However, it's hard for him to make a case against your company if records clearly show the disciplinary actions leading up to his termination.
Meet with the employee in private to advise him of the written verbal warning. Tell him exactly why he is being warned, as well as the consequences for any future warnings. Have handy two copies of written documentation that includes the employee's name, the date, the offense and the fact that it is a verbal warning. Document the next step in the disciplinary process should another incident occur. Sign and date the written document. Also, provide a copy of the document to the employee, but put the official copy in the employee's file.
Some companies have a disciplinary probation policy in place that allows written verbal warnings to become void after a certain amount of time passes. For instance, your company may allow the warning to fall off the employee's record if there are no more disciplinary actions for six consecutive months. If the warning expires, the employee is granted a clean slate. However, the previous written documentation is still considered part of his personnel file.