How Can You Tell if Discipline by Your Employer is Unfair?


Immediately after facing a reprimand from your manager, it is normal for you to feel like the discipline is unfair. However, once your emotional reactions have subsided, you will likely understand why your employer said something to you.

Write-ups and other forms of disciplinary action help a company limit its liability and encourage the best possible performance from workers. However, some companies may abuse the disciplinary process. Businesses may use it as a means to harass a worker or make them feel unwanted at the company.

Other times, if a worker has filed a complaint against someone else or asked for medical leave, the company might write them up repeatedly as a way to fire them without consequence. How can you determine if the discipline you receive from your company is unfair or inappropriate?

Does your employer maintain equal treatment for all under the rules?

For the company to claim that it provides a harassment- and discrimination-free work environment, it will typically need not just make statements about equality but also focus on fairness in its treatment of employees.

Your company should enforce the rules equally for everyone, regardless of their position and other factors. Age, race, sex, sexual orientation, and medical conditions should not factor into how the company treats a worker or the discipline it subjects them to. If some workers frequently face discipline while workers of other backgrounds avoid criticism for similar behaviors, it could be a sign of unfair disciplinary practices.

Should the company routinely enforce the rule in question?

One clear warning sign that a company wants to treat you unfairly is the sudden enforcement of a rule they haven’t cared about in years.

If the company has turned a blind eye to informal work attire for everyone but suddenly writes you up for not wearing a dress shirt one day, their arbitrary enforcement of a rule not currently upheld in the workplace is unfair. If you can clearly point to recent situations that did not result in discipline for the worker involved, it could indicate unfair disciplinary practices.

If you think you’ve faced unfair discipline, your employer might be in the process of trying to terminate you. Documenting your experiences and talking to someone about your employment rights can help you make more informed decisions to protect your career.