How to Write a Letter of Reprimand How to Write a Letter of Reprimand

How to Write a Letter of Reprimand and When to Notarize

As a manager, one of your key responsibilities is to address poor performance or improper behavior by employees. In some cases, a verbal warning is sufficient. However, for more serious issues, a formal written reprimand is necessary. A letter of reprimand serves as an official record of the issue and required corrective actions.

When crafted properly, it can be an effective tool for communicating expectations and modifying behavior. However, reprimand letters also come with risks and legal implications that you must consider carefully. Knowing how and when to notarize a letter of reprimand is critical.

This article guides determining when a written reprimand is appropriate, how to compose a letter of reprimand, and whether notarization of the letter is advisable. With the right approach, you can use reprimand letters to build a fair, well-documented record and motivate employees to meet standards.

What Is a Letter of Reprimand and When Should You Issue One?

A letter of reprimand is a formal letter documenting an employee’s unsatisfactory conduct or performance. As an employer, you should issue a letter of reprimand when an employee has committed a serious offense or has had multiple minor infractions. Reprimanding an employee in writing establishes a record of their wrongdoing and puts them on notice that further issues could result in suspension or termination.

When Should You Send a Letter of Reprimand?

You should send a letter of reprimand in the following situations:

  • Repeated tardiness or unexcused absences: After verbal warnings have been ineffective, a written reprimand establishes a record of the attendance issues.
  • Failure to meet work standards or insubordination: If an employee is not fulfilling their job duties or is disregarding company policies, a reprimand clarifies the expected standards of behavior and performance.
  • Harassment or bullying: For serious offenses like harassment, bullying, or creating a hostile work environment, immediate disciplinary action like a written reprimand is warranted.
  • Theft or dishonesty: Any illegal or unethical actions by an employee should be addressed with a reprimand at minimum.

You should not send a reprimand for a minor, single infraction or if the issue was beyond the employee’s control. Verbal counseling the employee first is best practice before escalating to a formal written reprimand. If further discipline is unlikely needed, a reprimand may be too severe and damage your working relationship and company culture.

Always remain professional, courteous, and solution-focused when communicating with any employee. Clearly state your expectations for improvement and provide concrete examples of satisfactory conduct. Offer support and a reasonable time for the employee to correct their behavior or performance before pursuing additional disciplinary action.

Writing a Letter of Reprimand
Writing a Letter of Reprimand

What to Include in a Reprimand Letter

A formal letter of reprimand should clearly and objectively state the unsatisfactory performance or conduct and outline specific steps for improvement.

It is important to begin by specifying the unacceptable behavior or actions that warrant disciplinary action. Provide concrete examples and evidence to support your claims. Explain how this behavior negatively impacts work quality, productivity, workplace environment, company values, or brand image.

Next, convey your expectations for improvement and correction. This may include:

  • Adhering to company policies and procedures.
  • Meeting performance objectives and metrics.
  • Improving communication, timeliness, or quality of work.
  • Adjusting attitude or interpersonal skills.
  • Undergoing additional training.

Then, outline the consequences if changes are not made, such as probation, suspension, or termination. State that the employee’s progress will be monitored over the next 3 to 6 months.

For serious infractions, it may be appropriate to have the letter notarized, especially if it is a final written warning. Notarization legally authenticates the signature and helps convey the gravity of the situation. Follow your company’s progressive discipline process to determine when notarization, or further action, is merited.

With clear communication and a commitment to do better, a formal reprimand can be an opportunity to improve accountability, strengthen the employment relationship, and foster an equitable work environment. But take care to address issues promptly and avoid the perception of discrimination.

How to Write a Reprimand Letter

When it becomes necessary to formally reprimand an employee, a well-written letter is crucial. Follow these steps to draft an effective reprimand letter:

Make sure you have all the facts about the issue at hand and any relevant evidence to support your position. Do not accuse or make assumptions without concrete evidence. Discuss the situation with HR or legal counsel if needed.

Clearly state the problem or unacceptable behavior. Be concise but specific, providing relevant dates, times, locations, and details about the incident(s). Explain how this violates company policy or expectations.

Request an explanation from the employee. Ask them to provide in writing within a certain deadline their account of events and reason for their actions. Be open to listening to their perspective.

If after reviewing their response you still wish to issue a reprimand, schedule a meeting to discuss the issue in person. Allow them to respond and ask any clarifying questions. Be professional and composed during the discussion.

Written Reprimands

In the written reprimand, formally state that the employee’s behavior or actions were unacceptable and a violation of policy. Reiterate the specific issues discussed in your meeting. Outline expected and acceptable behavior or performance going forward.

Explain any consequences, such as probation or suspension. Be clear about next steps for corrective action and when progress will be reviewed. Provide a deadline for the employee to formally respond acknowledging receipt of the reprimand.

Make it clear that further policy violations or failure to meet outlined expectations will result in additional disciplinary action, up to and including termination of employment.

End on a constructive note by expressing a willingness to move forward positively. Thank the employee for their time and understanding.

Following the proper procedure and maintaining a professional approach will help ensure your reprimand letter is fair, justified, and defensible should any legal issues arise. Be consistent and document all steps taken for the best outcome.

Should You Have the Employee Sign the Letter of Reprimand?

When writing a formal letter of reprimand, it is standard procedure to have the employee sign the letter to acknowledge receipt. However, there are a few situations where obtaining the employee’s signature may not be appropriate or legally advisable.

If the employee refuses to sign the letter, it is still acceptable to issue a written warning. Their refusal to sign does not negate the validity of the reprimand. You should note on the letter that the employee received but refused to sign the document. Have a witness also sign and date the letter to confirm it was presented to the employee.

Legal Retribution and Employee Signing

In rare instances, the behavior or actions that warranted the reprimand may also constitute illegal or unethical acts. In these cases, it is best not to have the employee sign the letter, as their signature could be seen as an admission of guilt. It is best to first consult with your legal department before issuing a reprimand under these circumstances. They can advise on appropriate next steps to address the situation properly.

If the reprimand is for a serious infraction that may lead to further disciplinary action, up to and including termination, it may strategically be better not to have the employee sign. Their signature on such a letter could potentially be used against the organization if the employee were to pursue legal action upon termination. It is best to proceed cautiously under guidance from your legal counsel.

In general, having an employee sign a letter of reprimand is considered a best practice. However, there are a number of situations where discretion should be exercised. Be sure to think through the implications and potential consequences before requiring a signature. If ever in doubt, check with your legal department to ensure you are on solid ground. Proceeding judiciously will help avoid complications and challenges down the road.

How to Notarize a Letter of Reprimand

To notarize a letter of reprimand, you will need to visit a notary public. A notary public is an official appointed by a state government with the authority to administer oaths, take acknowledgments, and verify documents. Notarizing the letter of reprimand adds an additional level of formality and helps confirm the identity of the parties involved.

When meeting with the notary public, be sure to bring government-issued photo identification, such as a driver’s license or passport, for both yourself and the employee receiving the reprimand. The notary will need to verify the identities of all parties before proceeding.

Next, the notary public will review the letter of reprimand to ensure it is properly signed and dated. They will then ask you and the employee to swear or affirm that the signatures on the document are authentic. Once sworn, the notary will complete their notarial certificate or stamp, which typically includes information such as the notary’s commission expiration date, the type of notarial act performed, the date of notarization, and the notary’s official seal and signature.

Notarizing the letter of reprimand helps deter fraud since notary seals and signatures are tracked by the state. It also adds a level of formality to help convey the seriousness of the reprimand to the employee. However, the notarization of a letter of reprimand is not legally required in most cases and will not affect the validity or enforceability of the reprimand. Whether or not to notarize ultimately comes down to company policy and the level of formality desired.

Notarizing a Letter of Reprimand Online

The fastest way to get this done is to notarize your document online with a service like BlueNotary.

If at any point you have additional questions about notarizing a letter of reprimand or notarial acts in general, do not hesitate to ask the notary public. They can walk you through the process and ensure the proper steps are taken to notarize the document. Following the guidance of the notary public will help avoid errors and ensure a valid notarization.


In conclusion, knowing how to properly write a letter of reprimand and understanding when notarization is necessary can help ensure a professional interaction. Taking the time to thoughtfully address performance issues provides employees a chance to make corrections and improve.

However, reprimand letters require careful consideration and should only be used when verbal and written warnings have failed. Notarizing such correspondence adds a level of formality and should be reserved only for the most serious infractions or final warnings.

With the right approach, these letters can be an opportunity to strengthen relationships and build a more productive work environment.

General Question About Write a Letter of Reprimand

Are there specific examples of situations where a letter of reprimand was successfully challenged in court due to improper notarization or lack of employee signature?

Challenging a reprimand letter in court due to improper notarization or lack of employee signature is nuanced and often depends on the circumstances and employer documentation practices. While specific cases may not be publicly available, challenges typically arise when employees claim unawareness or falsification. Courts generally favor employers with documented procedures for issuing reprimands, emphasizing fairness and consistency over signature or notarization presence.

How does the process of notarizing a letter of reprimand vary across different states or countries, particularly in jurisdictions with unique legal requirements for notarial acts?

The process of notarizing a reprimand letter varies across states or countries due to distinct legal requirements. In the U.S., each state has its regulations, including authentication methods and acceptance of remote notarization. Internationally, differences are more pronounced, requiring employers operating in multiple jurisdictions to adapt procedures to meet local legal standards, often necessitating consultation with legal experts for compliance.

Can the article provide a template or sample letter of reprimand for managers to adapt to their specific needs?

Providing a template or sample reprimand letter can aid managers in addressing performance or behavior issues. A well-crafted template would clarify the issue, expectations for improvement, consequences of non-compliance, and offer support. However, templates must be tailored to the specific context and company policies, reviewed by HR or legal counsel to ensure fairness and legal compliance.

[sibwp_form id=6]