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A formal reprimand usually indicates an employee has committed a serious offense and ignored previous verbal or written warnings. This letter typically is added to his permanent personnel file, where future supervisors might read it or prospective employers might learn of it if they call the company to check references. At most companies, you have the right to appeal or respond to a reprimand, but may have to meet certain guidelines or deadlines.
Consult your employee handbook or human resources department before filing an appeal. Some companies require employees to follow a standard process for disputing a supervisor’s allegations. At the University of Oregon, for example, a written reprimand to an employee must state that the person can file a written rebuttal against the reprimand to be placed in his personnel file. If you don’t know your company’s policy, or if it doesn’t have one, set up an appointment with the HR department to view your file. You’re entitled to see it, and you can also add your letter so that anyone who reads your file will see your side of the story.
Stick to the Facts
No matter how upset, angry or embarrassed you are, don’t lay blame, make accusations or resort to name-calling in your letter. Keep your emotions out of it, and focus on the facts instead. If an employer reprimanded you for excessive tardiness, for example, note that you had previously asked him about coming in late a few days a week so you can take your children to school. Emphasize that you thought the two of you had an agreement.
Address the Complaints
In your letter, only state the specific issues your supervisor brought up in his reprimand. If he wasn’t clear, ask him to outline exactly what company rules you violated and what actions he’s writing you up on. Offer any evidence you have that you’ve consistently fulfilled your obligations and served as a model employee. If the incident stems from a misunderstanding, recount your perspective in detail without suggesting your boss is to blame.
Appealing the Reprimand
At some organizations, you can not only refute the reprimand, you can also request that it be removed from your file. The Association of Texas Professional Educators points out that you can do this informally or in the form of an official grievance. If you file a grievance, you can appeal to senior management, offering you another avenue to have your voice heard if you have no luck with your immediate supervisor. You may have only a short time to file an appeal, however, and if you don’t meet the deadline you might not have any options to clear your name.
If you belong to a union, contact your local representative before you file an appeal, explaining the reprimand you received. Many unions guide members through the disciplinary process, ensuring their rights as workers are protected. The Association for Union Democracy, for example, notes that you have the right to ask a union representative to accompany you to any meeting that might result in disciplinary action.