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Document, Document, Document: Supervisors Must Keep Proper Documentation of Employee Issues
Christine McDade is an experienced human resources manager.
Documentation is crucial for defending an employer's actions.
One thing that I have heard over and over in the field of Human Resources is that supervisors must document, document, document. That is to say, it is important to keep accurate and detailed records about employment issues and actions. Courts recognize the written document much easier than the spoken word that is recalled by one or more people. Keeping good documentation on file may just be what a supervisor needs to support the decision that was made concerning an employee issue. Being able to retell the reasons for an employee action when challenged by an outside party, such as the EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) or an an attorney representing a disgruntled employee, can be supported by the documentation you keep on file.
What Do We Document?
As mentioned above, it is important to keep records on all employee activity during an employee's employment with an organization. From the time the employee applies for the job as an applicant, to the last day of employment, employers are wise to keep proper records of the employment actions that affect the individual. The following list contains some examples of documentation kept on file by Human Resources:
- New Hire Information: employment application, background information (employment references, education verification, drug test results, driver license checks, criminal background check, required certifications and licenses, etc.)
- Performance Evaluations: completed performance evaluation and self-evaluation forms
- Employment Action Forms: any forms that document transfers, promotions, demotions, pay raises, leaves of absences, etc.
- Certifications and Licenses: certifications, licenses, and any training documentation
- Written Warnings/Counseling: Disciplinary Actions and Performance Action Plans
- Accolades and Recognition: employee recognition letters, awards, letters of commendation from customers, etc.
- Separation: resignation letter, termination paperwork, etc.
- Employee Complaints and Investigations: any written complaints of harassment and/or discrimination, notes related to an investigation and interviews
While the list above is not all inclusive, it certainly provides a good overview of common documentation that employers would have on file. Please note that I-9 forms with required identification paperwork and employee health information should be kept separately and per legislation requirements.
When Does the Documentation Come Into Play?
For an employer, there are many occasions when documentation will become important to produce. When a hiring decision is challenged, for example, it will be important to produce the records that show the background work that was performed to support the decision that was made in the hiring of the selected applicant. The application and resume from the candidate selected will demonstrate the qualifications that proves this person meets the requirements of the job. It is also recommended to have a signed job description of the employee to confirm the position requirements for which the person was selected. Document, document, document
Another challenging situation for managers is receiving that letter from the EEOC that demands the employer to submit a formal response regarding allegations of discrimination or harassment that has been made against the organization. These charges always come with requests for documentation about the allegations, disciplinary matter, employee personnel files, investigative notes, etc. In fact, much of the documentation listed above will come into play when there is a charge from the EEOC. Having the proper documentation in your files will be helpful for the production of the material that is requested for the justification of the actions you made in regard to the employee. It will also become the evidence you need as you write your formal response.
Auditing of some aspect of the employment process can come in many forms. When employers have the proper documentation on hand to demonstrate the business reasons for the actions they take, the organization will have the support needed to meet the challenges that may present themselves by those inside and outside the organization.