How to Respond to a Disciplinary Letter in Ontario, Canada

by William McCoy; Updated September 26, 2017
Meet with an HR rep if you have questions that need answers.

Disciplinary letters are handed out to people in various lines of work after a verbal warning has failed. While the disciplinary system varies by industry and company, an employee will often receive one or two verbal warnings before a letter of discipline. This letter may serve as another warning, or may include a punishment such as unpaid leave. If the problem continues, the employee may be terminated. In Ontario, Canada, the letter may come from the company’s human resources representative, regulated by the Human Resources Professionals Association.

Step 1

Stay calm when the disciplinary letter is presented to you. Depending on your company’s structure, it may be presented by your supervisor or the human resources representative. No one enjoys being disciplined, but a confrontation will not help the situation. You may find going on a short walk outside before opening the letter will help you cool down.

Step 2

Read the letter in its entirety several times to ensure you fully understand the reason for the discipline. If you’ve received one or two verbal warnings about the same offense, the letter may simply outline that the problem has continued in spite of your warnings. Typically, a disciplinary letter briefly explains the background, states that this problem has happened again and that it is in violation of the company’s rules. It may also include a punishment or explain what will happen if this problem is not corrected.

Step 3

Speak to your company’s human resources representative if you require any clarification about the letter. An HR rep will be able to explain the letter and answer any questions you may have.

Step 4

Write a formal response to the disciplinary letter. Begin by saying that you have received the letter on the date it was presented to you. Request that your response letter be appended to the disciplinary letter in your personnel file. Write that you fully understand the letter if this is the case. If not, clearly define the questions you have and request a written follow up. For example, you may write, “I understand and accept that I was late for work on two occasions last week. However, I disagree that I was late on the third day in question. As discussed with you in person, I was late only because I was stuck in a broken elevator for 20 minutes.” Write any other confusion or complaints in the letter to ensure they are made formal. Conclude your letter by explaining future actions, such as the fact you will strive to be more punctual, or that you do not agree with the discipline and you wish a meeting with your supervisor, the supervisor’s manager and an HR representative.

Step 5

Send the letter to your supervisor and the HR representative. Copy your letter to anyone who was copied on the disciplinary letter you received.


  • If you work under a union structure, you may wish to seek the union counsel's advice about how to respond to the letter, especially if you feel you have not done anything wrong.

About the Author

Toronto-based journalist William McCoy has been writing since 1997, specializing in topics such as sports, nutrition and health. He serves as the Studio's sports and recreation section expert. McCoy is a journalism graduate of Ryerson University.

Photo Credits

  • Group of business people working together in the office. image by Andrey Kiselev from