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Can You Be Fired for Not Signing a Write-Up?

If an employer believes a worker has failed to perform the duties of a job, the employer may choose to record the worker's performance in the worker's employee file. Often known as "write-ups," these records can be used to justify firing an employee. In legal processes, "write-ups" can also impact a worker's future employment.

Generally speaking, employees are asked to sign write-ups to show they have seen and understood them.

What options do workers have if they disagree with what their employer has said in a write-up? What can a worker do if they do not want to sign the document? Before discussing employees' options, it's important to understand a few key concepts of U.S. labor law.

At-Will Employment

In the United States, most employers hire employees under at-will agreements. This means that employers can legally fire their employees for nearly any reason, at any time, and without warning. At the same time, employees are also legally able to quit without warning or reason. There are, however, some exceptions to at-will policies.

At-will employment has largely become the default in the U.S. labor market. But employers can choose to create their own employment contracts, while those contracts may also lay out constraints on the employer's and/or the employee's ability to terminate a contract.

Additionally, labor forces that are unionized are able to get around certain terms of at-will contracts by means of their power of collective bargaining. There are also some state and federal limitations on an employer's ability to terminate an employee's contract.

Write-Ups and Termination

It's important to understand the basic concepts of at-will employment when discussing write-ups and employees' options when dealing with them. This is the case because employers often have the ability to fire an employee if they do not comply with the employer's request. Such a request can be asking an employee to sign a write-up.


If an employee is presented with a write-up, it's worth their time to read the document thoroughly. Some write-ups do not have any language saying the employee agrees with the write-up. Some of such write-ups only say the employee just has to read them.

If an employee is written-up and disputes the statement in the write-up, the employee may be able to submit a written rebuttal that can be filed alongside the write-up. This provides the employee an opportunity to have their dispute officially recorded.

Resources for Workers

Although at-will employment provides employees with significant freedoms in terms of firing workers, there are boundaries. Federal law states that employers cannot discriminate against workers or fire workers based on the worker's protected status. Examples of protected statuses are:

  • Race
  • Religion
  • Sex
  • National Origin

Still Concerned About a Write-Up? Contact an Attorney

Although there are both state and federal regulations regarding firing an employee, navigating issues around termination alone can be confusing and difficult. If a worker feels they have been treated unjustly by their employer, it's recommended that they seek assistance and advice from an experienced legal professional.

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