The Perils of Refusing to Sign for Receipt of a Disciplinary Notice are Underscored in this Unemployment Insurance Appeal

What can I say about this case except it should be a lesson to employees to sign for the receipt of a disciplinary action when required to do so by your employer, or face the wrath of a disingenuous and biased court of appeals like Mr. Medeiros did in Paratransit, Inc. v. Unemployment Insurance Appeals (Medeiros) (June 15, 2012) __ Cal.App.4th__.

Let’s do what the court did not do, which is look at the facts. Mr. Medeiros was presented with a disciplinary action document by his employer. His employer demanded that he sign the document in the meeting with his employer representatives. He refused to sign it and cited a number of reasons.

Paratransit and Mr. Medeiros’ union had negotiated a memorandum of understanding that required that employees sign disciplinary notices when presented to the employees but explicitly required that “the notice states that by signing, the Vehicle Operator is only acknowledging receipt of said notice and is not admitting to any fault or to the truth of any statement in the notice.” Fair enough! However, the notice presented to Mr. Medeiros did not include this required language. It stated “Employee signature as to receipt”. Perhaps this meant the same thing as required by the union contract, but it sure wasn’t clear and it should have been reason enough for Mr. Medeiros to wait to sign the agreement.

However, this Court of Appeals was on a rampage, attacked Mr. Medeiros’ credibility with a vengeance, declaring that he lied, and determining that he should have signed the disciplinary action and because he hadn’t, denying him unemployment. What was the real harm in his refusal to sign right on the spot? Shouldn’t the employer have given him the opportunity to consult his union rep and then sign? Why didn’t the employer offer to clarify the language so that the employee understood that he wasn’t admitting he agreed with the disciplinary action? Why in the world would any court deny an employee unemployment because he refused to sign a disciplinary notice on the spot, given the standard for denial of unemployment benefits is “misconduct”?

The lesson to be learned? Although your work situation and rules may certainly be different, it is a safe practice to sign for receipt of a disciplinary notice when requested to by your employer, whether you agree with the merits of the disciplinary notice of not. Second, if the form does not so indicate, write something on it such as “I am signing simply to acknowledge receipt of this notice, and do not agree with the content”, or something to that effect. The third and final lesson to be learned is that some court and some rulings simply are wrong, mean-spirited and disingenuous. You really have to shake your head at the two (out of three) judges who signed their names to this opinion!

Jody LeWitter
June 26, 2012