How to Respond to a Disciplinary Letter in Ontario, Canada

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The workplace is an important aspect of many people’s lives. Often, employees spend more time at work than they do at home on a daily basis. Sometimes, however, certain issues can arise at work that are less than ideal, which can lead to disciplinary action by the employer. Depending on the level of the offense, the employer may issue a few verbal warnings before sending a disciplinary letter, which can also be called a letter of reprimand.

Understand the Terms

In Ontario, the Human Resources department at your workplace will likely issue the disciplinary letter in conjunction with your manager or supervisor. Take time to understand the terms of the letter carefully before writing a response. Does the letter specify the reason for the disciplinary action?

If the letter is referring to an issue or situation which you have already been warned about verbally, it may outline the instances when you received the verbal warning. The letter may also specify how your actions go against company policy or provincial or federal labor laws. You may be told about specific disciplinary actions your company will be taking as a result of your offense.

Example:

This letter is in regard to the incident on Oct. 1, 2018, during which time you showed up to work in strict violation of our company dress code. This marks the third occasion this year where you've chosen to ignore our clearly designated dress code, as well as verbal warnings about changing your attire. Given your disregard for our company's policy, we are mandating that you attend our company's employee training for new employees next month to specifically review our policies. If there are future violations, we may have to temporarily suspend your employment.

Seek Professional Advice

It can be very distressing to receive a disciplinary letter. Before taking any action, seek out professional advice if you require some guidance on what to do next. You can speak directly with your HR department about why you are being reprimanded, or if you feel comfortable you can also touch base with your supervisor.

In Ontario, HR professionals are governed by the Human Resources Professionals Association (HRPA), which has local chapters in several cities and towns across the province. If you feel that your HR department has wrongfully disciplined your actions, you can reach out to the HRPA to learn more about what steps you can take.

The Ministry of Labour in Ontario provides detailed standards for employers and employees alike. The Employment Standards Act (ESA) offers information regarding the rights and responsibilities of employers and employees. Consult the ESA if you have any questions regarding your rights as an employee and whether your employer has disciplined you according to the regulations.

If you work in a unionized environment and are part of a union, you will have access to a lawyer to discuss any future actions.

Develop a Detailed Response

After considering the reasons for your disciplinary letter and understanding your rights and responsibilities, it’s imperative to compose a response to the letter and deliver it to your HR representative. Also, ensure your response is appended to the original letter in your employee file for future reference.

In your response, acknowledge that you have received the disciplinary letter. If you understand why you have received it, say that you are aware of your wrongdoing. If you have questions regarding the situation, lay them out clearly so that your HR representative or supervisor can review them with you. Finally, initiate a plan for the future. Suggest actions you will take that will improve your performance at work specifically related to the matter at hand. For example, if you are receiving the disciplinary letter for dressing inappropriately on the job, suggest that you will make every effort to dress according to the dress code as outlined by your employer.

Example:

I am writing this to acknowledge your disciplinary letter dated Oct. 15, 2018. While I do understand that I violated the company dress code on several of the occasions which you mentioned, I am not clear how the outfit I wore on Oct. 1, 2018 was in violation. I am happy to attend the employee training for a refresher on the specific way you'd prefer employees to dress, and will make every effort to conform to the company policy in the future. Thank you for bringing this to my attention.

References

About the Author

Anam Ahmed is a Toronto-based writer and editor with over a decade of experience helping small businesses and entrepreneurs reach new heights. She has experience ghostwriting and editing business books, especially those in the "For Dummies" series, in addition to writing and editing web content for the brand. Anam works as a marketing strategist and copywriter, collaborating with everyone from Fortune 500 companies to start-ups, lifestyle bloggers to professional athletes. As a small business owner herself, she is well-versed in what it takes to run and market a small business. Anam earned an M.A. from the University of Toronto and a B.A.H. from Queen's University. Learn more at www.anamahmed.ca.