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The goal of presenting a Letter of Counseling is communication. Sometimes we just don't express ourselves clearly, there are misunderstandings, and we don't quite see eye to eye. The Letter of Counseling is intended to clear up any confusion and to improve or correct behavior. The intent is not to aggravate what may be a tense situation by causing embarrassment. A Letter of Counseling should be delivered in private with only the offender and the supervisor present. The supervisor should explain the behavior that led up to the requirement to formally document it and allow the offender to read the LOC. The offender is then required to sign the document indicating he has read and understood the contents. Signing an LOC is not an admission of guilt. It merely indicates that the subject of the LOC acknowledges that he was spoken to about the behavior described in the letter.
Presenting an LOC can be awkward whether you're a new supervisor or a 20 year veteran. It sometimes feels like you're abusing your rank or taking advantage of your position. Make sure that's not the case. Because if you don't have a valid reason for documenting substandard behavior, the counselee will often protest to the Commander or First Sergeant and force you to withdraw the LOC which would make you look kind of silly and the atmosphere in the workcenter even worse than before. If you're not sure if an LOC is deserved or supportable, ask your supervisor, NCOIC, or First Sergeant for advice. It's common to be so close to a situation that you can't be sure if you're biased or not.
When delivering an LOC, don't tell the person being counseled that you wrote the LOC because your supervisor made you or because the other NCOs in the shop demanded it. You have to take responsibility for your actions. If you say you're doing it because someone made you, it makes you look powerless and makes it appear to the counselee that you don't agree with the documentation. And if you don't agree with the documentation, that implies his behavior wasn't really objectionable and that the LOC is more a result of office politics than bad behavior. This will give the counselee the idea that he can challenge the LOC and make you withdraw it. So maintain a united front and present it as if it's your idea. You don't have to say it's your idea but do not ever say you're presenting it because someone else told you to or that you don't agree with it. If you truly don't agree, avoid mentioning that fact to the person being counseled. The way I do it is to politely ask the person to come to my office or some private area and then, when inside, I say something like, "I don't know if you're aware of this but there has been an issue with...". Explain that you're not taking sides, but that it's your duty, because of your rank or position, to document workcenter issues and facilitate a solution. Allow him or her to give you their side of the story and listen. Most people, if they're reasonable, will understand your position and cooperate. Make sure that, if you take this approach, that you're sincere and that you look out for the counselee's interest by also fully explaining the negative results of further, similar behavior.
If the offender refuses to acknowledge receipt by signing the letter, then the person who presented the letter should write, "member refused to sign" on the letter and then sign and date it. Do not end the counseling session yet. While the subject waits, get a witness to join you in the room. Do this matter of factly, as if it was a normal step in the process. The supervisor who presented the document should then present it again to the offender, this time in the presence of the witness, so that the witness can verify that he or she refused to sign. If the subject again refuses to sign, the witness must then sign next to the "member refused to sign" statement. The counseling session should be ended and the LOC forwarded to the CSS. Professionalism dictates that neither the presenter or the witness discuss what occurred during the counseling session.
Is the recipient of the LOC required to sign the letter of counseling? What is the reference?
The only reference I can find is AFI 36-2907, Unfavorable Information File (UIF) Program, which states in para 3.5.2:
3.5.2. The person who initiates a RIC/LOC, LOA, or LOR may send it to the member's commander or superiors for information, action, or for their approval for file in the UIF or PIF. Include the member's written acknowledgment and any documents submitted by the member. For officers, LORs must be filed in the UIF, and any LOAs or LOCs not filed in the UIF, must be filed in the officer's PIF.
The above reference suggests that, in order to be actionable, any disciplinary document must be signed to indicate receipt. If anyone knows of another reference, please let me know and I'll post it here.
Is the person who writes the LOC required to give the subject of the LOC a copy?
Below are the references I could find that address this:
From the 2009 edition of The Military Commander and the Law, Page 26, ADMINISTRATIVE COUNSELINGS, ADMONITIONS, AND REPRIMANDS:
-- Read the individual the letter and have the member immediately acknowledge receipt on the original letter by filling in the date received and signing the acknowledgement
-- If the member refuses to acknowledge receipt, the person who issued the letter should write on the original letter beneath the member’s signature block in the acknowledgement section, “<
> refused to acknowledge receipt”
-- Give the member a copy of the letter
The above reference requires the originator to give the LOC recipient a copy of the LOC.
From the Lackland Law Center Reprimand and Admonitions Guide:
NOTE: Under AFI 36-2907, the member has three days to acknowledge receipt and provide a response. To avoid confusion, ensure that the letter is dated and served on the same day. If the member refuses to acknowledge receipt when the letter is served, record the refusal by writing “member refused to acknowledge” in the member’s signature block, with the date and the initials of the individual issuing the letter.
You need not give the original of the letter to the member. A copy will suffice so long as the original is properly signed and endorsed. In order to protect the original, you may serve a copy on the member and attach his or her response to the original.
The above states that the originator should give a copy of the Reprimand to the recipient. From the same reference:
Rule for Court-Martial 1001(b)(2) and AFI 51-201, Section C, allow introduction in the sentencing phase of courts-martial items from an accused’s PIF, provided that there is evidence on the documents that the member received a copy of the documents when issued and had an opportunity to respond to the allegations in the documents. This makes it vital not only that commanders appropriately document misconduct or shortcomings, but also that legible copies of these documents are retained in the PIF. Moreover, if the commander concludes that the reprimand or admonition should be filed in the member’s UIF, the document must be referred to the individual concerned. The member is then afforded the opportunity to submit rebuttal comments. Be aware of the special rules concerning reprimands and admonitions for officers. These rules are found in the CSAF Accountability Message dated 1 Feb 96.
The above states that if the receiver of the LOC doesn't receive a copy, it may not be used for court-martial which suggests giving a person a copy is a required part of the process.
If anyone knows of another reference, please let me know and I'll post it here.
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