Can an employer retroactively change disciplinary proceduresregrading employee performance?

For example, I received a warning about tardiness for being 7 minutes late but then 3 weeks later theynotified us that the policy had been changed so that if you were more than 5 minutes late you would get a write-up instead of a warning. Can they go back and change my verbal warning to a write-up in my employee performance log?

Asked on September 15, 2010 under Employment Labor Law, Michigan


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

IF there was a contract in force at the time, no. An employment contract could either be an actual contract (or union agreement), or it *could* be an "implied contract" which was created by very definited terms in an employee handbook, with no caveats or restrictions. By that, I mean that if there was anything in the handbook (or similar document) saying that "nothing in here creates an employment agreement" or "terms are subject to change without warning/at will' or anything similar, then the handbook is for "illustrative purposes" only and does not create any sort of contract at all.

Even if there was a contract or agreement in place at that time that would have meant you'd received a verbal, not written warning, that may not mean much; unless you do in fact have employment guaranteed from something in some sor of an agreement, you are an employee at will, and going forward, your employer could choose to discipline, demotre, fire, etc. you at any time, for any reason.

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