Workers should be careful about what they sign, especially if they are in trouble. If you are unsure about what to do, it's better to say that you will think about it before you sign.

Signing a write-up or bad evaluation: Often workers refuse to sign a performance evaluation or notice of discipline to show that they don't agree with it. Signing it does not mean that you agree with it -- just that you received it -- and refusing to sign it doesn't mean anything. If a bad evaluation or discipline is unfair, you need to appeal it. If you want to make it clear that you don't agree with a document, you can write next to your signature that "my signature only shows that I received the document.'

When you should NOT sign a paper: Signing a statement where you admit that you did something or agree to pay your boss back is a bad idea. Do not sign a confession. Do not sign a letter resigning from your job. Do not sign a waiver agreeing not to sue. Do not sign anything under pressure. Say that you want to take the paper home and think it over or show it to a lawyer. You can always sign it later.

  • Waivers: When you agree to "waive" (sign away) your rights to file a lawsuit over a termination, make sure that what you get is worth it (in severance pay, a good reference, or accrued leave pay-out, for example). Although some workers have sued even after they signed a waiver promising not to sue, it is harder.
  • Union protection: Union members should talk to a shop steward and read your contract about filing a grievance. You shouldn't be going to meetings where you are given a write up or bad evaluation without union representation.
  • Non-union workers should find out about any appeal or grievance process that they can use (look in your employee handbook or ask human resources). The appeal process may be stacked against you, since the company is making a decision about itself, but it is the only way to try to change the discipline or evaluation. It also puts on the record that you tried to appeal it.
  • Public employees often have appeal rights under civil service.