Is it legal for an employer to write you/give you a disciplinary warning for something there is no written policy on?

UPDATED: Nov 18, 2011

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Is it legal for an employer to write you/give you a disciplinary warning for something there is no written policy on?

I was written up for calling in for a family emergency because it was an “unexcused” absence. I was also told I would be given a raise and it has been 4 pay periods/ paychecks and I still have not received my raise. Is this legal?

Asked on November 18, 2011 under Employment Labor Law, California


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

If you have an employment contract or agreement which specificies the grounds for discipline, that contract is enforceable, and you may only be "written up" or disciplined in accordance with it. But without an employment contract, you are an employee at will, and the employer could terminate (fire) you at any time, for any reason, such as an "unexcused absence" like that you describe--and being able to terminate you at a will, could take steps less than or short of termination to discipline you, such as writing you up.

If you gave up or did something to get the raise--e.g. took on extra shifts, underwent extra training, relocated, paid for some education, classes, etc. out of your own pocket--you may have an enforceable agreement to get the raise. But if you did not have to give up, pay, or do anything, then this was just a unilateral promise (not a contract), which is not enforceable; the employer may go back on its word.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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