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Can Your Employer Fire You for Refusing to Sign a Write-Up?

If an employer believes a worker has failed to perform their job duties, the employer may choose to record the worker's poor performance in the worker's employee file. They can also write you up for insubordination or fighting with your co-workers.

This record is often called a "write-up." Your employer uses these records to justify firing you. From a legal perspective, write-ups can also impact your future employment.

Employers ask employees to sign write-ups to show they have seen and understood them. The only options are to sign it or refuse to sign it.

What options do you have if you disagree with what your employer said in a write-up? What can you do if you don't want to sign the document? Before discussing your options, it's essential to understand a few key employment law concepts.

At-Will Employment

In every state other than Montana, most workers are at-will employees. This means employers can legally fire their employees for nearly any reason, at any time, and without warning. At the same time, employees can also quit without notice or explanation. But there are some exceptions to at-will policies.

At-will employment has become the default in the U.S. labor market. But employers can choose to create their own employment contracts. These contracts may also identify constraints on the employer's and the employee's ability to terminate the employment relationship.

Unions can also get around specific terms of at-will contracts through their collective bargaining power. State and federal law still limit an employer's ability to terminate an employee's agreement.

Write-Ups and Termination

The types of write-ups you receive will depend on your type of work. You may receive a write-up for attendance or taking excessive breaks if you work at a retail store. Factory workers can receive write-ups for quality assurance issues.

Employers may issue a write-up if a prior verbal warning did not resolve the issue.

If you commit serious infractions, your employer may choose to fire you. If you disagree with the disciplinary action, you can sue your employer for wrongful termination.

Contrary to what many believe, convincing a judge that your employer unlawfully terminated your employment is difficult. It's best to consult with an employment attorney before you file your claim.


If you receive a write-up, you must read it carefully to determine the alleged infraction. The write-up should indicate which company policy you violated. Usually, either a manager or a representative from Human Resources will give the write-up to the employee.

This is also true for performance reviews. Your manager or H.R. representative will explain your review and address any progressive discipline your manager issued for that year.

Some write-ups and performance evaluations don't have language stating that the employee agrees with it. They usually say that the employee read it. It may also refer the individual to the company's employee handbook.

If an employee receives a write-up and disputes it, they may be able to submit a written rebuttal. Human Resources must file the rebuttal alongside the write-up. This provides the employee an opportunity to have their dispute officially recorded. All documentation is then required to go into the worker's personnel file.

Resources for Workers

Although at-will employment provides employers with significant freedom in firing workers, there are some boundaries. Federal law dictates that employers cannot discriminate against workers or fire them based on the worker's protected status.

Examples of protected statuses include:

  • Race
  • Religion
  • Gender
  • Ethnicity
  • Age
  • National origin
  • Sexual orientation

If your employer discriminates against you based on these characteristics, you can sue them for damages.

Still Concerned About a Write-Up? Contact an Attorney

Although there are state and federal regulations regarding the termination of an employee, it isn't easy to win a wrongful termination lawsuit. It's best to seek legal advice to protect your employee rights.

Consult's employment attorney directory to find a lawyer near you.

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Contact a qualified employment attorney to make sure your rights are protected.

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