Precisely worded warnings pay off

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Date:
03 Jan 2010

how a warning is worded may be crucial. this is clear from a recent judgment by the danish eastern high court.

How a warning is worded may be crucial. This is clear from a recent judgment by the Danish Eastern High Court.
 
The purpose of issuing a written warning to an employee is to give them an opportunity to remedy and, for instance, improve their conduct. It is therefore important that it is clear from the warning what conduct it concerns.
 
This can be seen from a case in which an employer was not justified in summarily dismissing an IT worker. The reason cited by the employer was that the IT worker had engaged in competitive conduct during working hours and, also, that he had not heeded a warning he had been given about using company internet and IT equipment for non-work purposes. The IT worker disagreed and issued proceedings.
 
An imprecisely worded warning
The Court sided with the IT worker. For one thing, the Court was not satisfied that he had engaged in competitive conduct during working hours. Nor was the Court satisfied that his internet use was contrary to the warning. Although he had used the company internet for non-work purposes, the warning was not sufficiently clear that any non-work internet use would result in summary dismissal. Accordingly, the use that had taken place was not of such an extent or nature as to justify summary dismissal.

 

Norrbom Vinding notes

  • that the judgment serves to underline the importance of carefully considering the wording of a warning; and

  • that employers must make sure that the reason for a summary dismissal is in fact covered by the warning that has been given.