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Patrick H.
Patrick H., Lawyer
Category: Australia Law
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Experience:  Dip Law LPAB - Sydney based lawyer
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I feel I have been treated unfairly. I have been given a written

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I feel I have been treated unfairly. I have been given a written warning which was given inappropriately.Which I disagreed with because accusations that were made against me were lies.A week later I was given another writtren warning and told to disregard the first because wording was wrong.I refused to sign both and did not disregard the first warning.I asked if I could have a meeting to sort this out I was told yes and then meeting was canceled thid happened 3weeks ago. Two weeks ago wr were given a work contract.I refuse to sign that becsuse the warnings haven't been sorted.This has caused me stress I've had to visit doctor .What do I do?
Hello and thank you for your question.

Written warnings have no legal status and mean nothing more than that your employer has indicated they are unhappy to you. There is no legal action that you can take or that you need to take in relation to them (except to deny any allegation in them) unless they actually take some form of disciplinary action against you, such as demoting you or dismissing you.

If it will appease your employer, there is no problem with acknowledging the warnings provided you make it clear that you are only acknowledging receiving them and that you make it clear that you deny any aspect of the warnings which you disagree with or do not accept as true. This ensures the employer cannot use your acknowledgment as an admission that there really are issues with your performance.

The reason employers issue warnings is so that they can prove they have given a worker reasonable opportunity and warning should they need to take disciplinary action. Employers have an obligation to act reasonably before taking such action so warnings are a way for them to try and establish that they are doing so. By not admitting that you have done anything wrong you make it more difficult for an employer to prove that any future disciplinary action was reasonable.

Until or unless your employer does something more that simply issuing you warnings, there is nothing you can actually do as you can only test these in court or the Fair Work Commission if they take actual action against you on the basis of the matters in the warnings. Until then you will simply have to deal with the fact that your employer is unhappy with you at the moment.

If you do find yourself dismissed or otherwise punished at work then you should contact the Fair Work Ombudsman to discuss your options with them, and very likely you may need to take action in the Fair Work Commission. If you are dismissed you will only have 21 days from the date of dismissal to bring an unfair dismissal claim, so act quickly or your options will narrow markedly.

As to your refusal to sign the contract, your decision may well be sensible. Although the contract and the warnings are in principle separate issues, it would seem likely that the contract may just be an effort to spell out or impose more clear cut guidelines than are apparent from your current working circumstances in order to make it easier for the employer to criticise your performance. On that basis you should certainly review the contract in detail and make sure you understand what you are signing, and this should be done even if the warnings are sorted out to your satisfaction.

I trust the above assists your understanding.

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Thank you and good luck.


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