I had worked at a call center, and hung up on a customer who was swearing at me. He called back and complained to management and they said there may be "disciplinary action". They ended up firing me for just cause (which I'm still considering taking to the labor board) but I'm wondering, what does "disciplinary action" usually mean? Would it mean having to write an apology letter? Or is it really a euphemism for getting fired?

  • 7
    Frequently being cited for disciplinary action can lead to firing. I remember your story from before and I do not believe you were fired for hanging up on the caller but rather you were fired for not accepting being disciplined for it. You continually brought it up to the manager even though he/she told you how they work and you refused to accept it. That's a major difference.
    – Dan
    Commented Feb 15, 2018 at 13:40
  • 5
    @Dan Why do people on here keep saying I was fired for asking too much? I asked my manager once. Commented Feb 16, 2018 at 0:38

5 Answers 5


Copying word for word from uslegal.com:

In employment law, disciplinary action is a process for dealing with job-related behavior that does not meet expected and communicated performance standards. The primary purpose for discipline is to assist the employee to understand that a performance problem or opportunity for improvement exists. The process features efforts to provide feedback to the employee so he or she can correct the problem. The goal of discipline is to improve employee performance.

Some methods of disciplinary action may have an employer:

  • Verbally reprimand the employee for poor performance.
  • Provide a written verbal warning in the employee's file, in an effort to improve employee performance.
  • Provide an escalting number of days in which the employee is suspended from work.
  • End the employment of an individual who refuses to improve.

If you are from another country, you can just look it up on your favourite search engine.


Disciplinary action involves deciding how to punish/correct you for doing something you should not have done as it conflicts with legal or company policies. Chances are your company has a rule in place which says you cannot hang up on a customer under any circumstances. We cannot know for sure unless you can enlighten us.

The next step is enacting the decision made by your superiors. It can be anything from a metaphorical slap on the wrist to being fired. 'Disciplinary action' is never a guarantee that you are getting fired. It will be up to the company to decide if your actions warrant such a severe punishment. It may vary depending on your country, but writing an apology letter - either to the company or the customer - seems unlikely. If you have been fired, your involvement with the company has come to an end, and unless you are pursuing further action with your labor board, further communication would probably be discouraged.

  • 1
    Out of curiosity, what other forms of "punishment" is there before firing? Does disciplinary action just mean "get a stern talking to"? Commented Feb 15, 2018 at 13:15
  • 1
    Other forms could include reduced privileges, reduction of bonus payments, be monitored by a superior more diligently or an extending of probation periods. A verbal warning is always possible too. Whether or not it gets kept on-record is for the bosses to decide.
    – user34587
    Commented Feb 15, 2018 at 14:00
  • 1
    Especially if OP is pursuing further action with their labor board, further direct communication would likely be unwise.
    – user
    Commented Feb 15, 2018 at 21:07

Depending on the severity of the infraction, and the work history of the employee, you can expect the response to vary.

Typically these policies are outlined in a corporate document, such as an Employee Handbook. Usually the language says something along the lines of: "...may be subject to disciplinary action, up to and including termination of employment"

Not all disciplinary action ends in termination of employment. Often, if the company wants to try to retain the employee, they will implement what is called a "Performance Improvement Plan." The PIP will outline the problem behaviors, and set a plan for how to resolve the issue. The problem employee will usually have a set period of time to show a change in behavior, or be terminated.

If the infraction is severe enough, or the employee isn't someone that management wants to retain, you may be dismissed without a PIP or any opportunity to address the problem.

  • 1
    the company had monthly PIPs for everyone, so I get the impression they wanted to be ahead of the ball if they needed to fire someone Commented Feb 15, 2018 at 13:13
  • Yikes! What a nightmare! It sucks to lose your job, but in the long run it sounds like you'll be better off.
    – Lumberjack
    Commented Feb 15, 2018 at 13:17
  • 2
    @Lumberjack - There is more to the story then the author explained in this question.
    – Donald
    Commented Feb 15, 2018 at 15:34
  • @Ramhound how is that relevant? Commented Feb 16, 2018 at 0:39
  • All I did was, there is more to your situation, that you described in this question. Have a problem with that? Feel free to report the comment as noise.
    – Donald
    Commented Feb 16, 2018 at 0:43

disciplinary action usually means some form of official and documented action to sanction unwanted behavior.

This may be a written warning or a official instruction from you manager, that goes into your file with HR. This is usually the first step to document cause for firing when the offense is not in it self big enough to fire immediately or the employer wants to give you a second chance. Firing is only the ultima ratio of a disciplinary action.

Remember firing is usually also a loss for the employer, since he invested money to hire and train you. So this is usually the least desiderable outcome for both parties. But other than threaten to fire you, the is not much the employer can really do. So this serves two functions: Possibly correct your behavior - and if it is not likely this will succeed or if they want to make an example: Make firing as cheap as possible by having proof for the alleged cause.

As, in my experience, call centers often have trouble with staff discipline, immediate firing on the least offense may just be company policy.


Usually, the phrase appears in this deliberately vague terminology "Disciplinary action up to and including termination may result".

What that means is that they can do anything from a verbal warning to firing you.

The reason they phrase it so vaguely is to give themselves the widest possible latitude. If you have a good record and many years of service, it may be a warning, if you have previous infractions, short time working for the company, bad attendance, or the manager doesn't like you, or any of the above, they can get rid of you.


You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .