Warning? How to react correctly to a warning.


A warning in the employment relationship is a serious matter. In particular, it can be a preparatory act for termination. You should therefore think carefully about how to properly respond to a warning.

First reaction to a warning

First of all, you should avoid spontaneous and rash reactions. They can easily be misunderstood or are even deliberately interpreted to your disadvantage.

There are no statutory deadlines that one would have to adhere to when proceeding against a warning. So quick action is not required at all. Take the time to calmly plan the next steps.

Many employers have their receipt confirmed with the employee's signature. There is basically nothing wrong with that.

However, you should not sign that you agree to the warning or that you accept it!

Options for action in the event of warnings

  • Seek discussion with the employer
  • Seek a discussion with the works council
  • Submit a written reply and request that the censure be removed from the personnel file
  • Action for removal
  • Sorry if this is justified
  • Ignore warning

In principle, employees have the right to remove or correct incorrect entries in the personnel file. The employer must remove an incorrect warning from the personnel file.

Unfortunately, it looks different with a rightly issued warning. In principle, there is no statute of limitations for such. This means that it remains in place and does not lose its validity after a certain period of time. So there is no "expiration date" after which warnings would have to be removed.

Facts about the warning

A warning has three important functions: 

1. Reprimand function

Wrong behavior of the employee should be reprimanded. So that the employee can learn from his mistakes, the accusation must be expressed as specifically as possible, ie what exactly happened? When, on what day and at what time did it happen? In addition, the employer must explain how the employee should have behaved correctly.

2. Warning function

In addition, the employer should use the warning to show the employee what consequences his behavior will have in the event of repetition. For this purpose, concrete measures, such as a termination, must actually be threatened.

3. Documentation function

Finally, the complaint also has a documentary character. A misconduct in the employment relationship is put on record and can thus aggravate the evidence for the necessity of a termination.

If the warning is not specific enough, it can be ineffective for formal reasons. But be careful: It is better not to point out formal errors right away!

In a legal process, formal errors improve the chances of success. However, if you point out the mistakes to your employer in good time, they will have enough time to correct them.

Advice from a lawyer in the event of a warning

We advise you very discreetly. Your employer does not need to find out that you are receiving legal advice on this matter. We check the chances of success against your warning and work with you to consider which legal steps make the most sense. We would be happy to prepare statements or counter-statements for you.

Tip: A warning can be quickly followed by a dismissal from the employer! Take out legal protection insurance in good time. If you cancel, you have to react quickly and within three weeks Dismissal protection suit raise.

Kathrin Roller

Lawyer for labor law in Leipzig

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