Posts Tagged ‘Documentation’

Four Tips to Remember When Documenting

Tuesday, November 6th, 2012

Whether you’re about to give an employee performance review or investigate a harassment claim, how you document is important. Documenting employee actions provides necessary support for a number of workplace decisions: pay increase, termination, suspension, promotion, etc. Proper documentation helps you make better decisions for your company and your workforce. A good written account may also reduce your risk of legal liability.

Here are four things to not forget when putting things down on paper:

Use Specifics

All employer documents have the potential to be at the center of an employee complaint or lawsuit. Knowing this, it’s best to use as many specifics as possible—so that if a third-party reads the document, they know exactly what has happened. Include all parties involved, exactly when and where the event happened and how you intervened.

Be Immediate

Once you’ve given a performance review or dealt with a complaint, you should document the details while they’re still fresh in your head. You could lose crucial details even waiting just a few days after the incident occurred. Make the document work for you instead of against you.

Be Clear

Because your documents have the possibility of reaching a courtroom, being as clear as you can be will work in your favor. For example, if you have poor handwriting, type up your document. If you are unsure about an incident, don’t lie or embellish—say that you are unsure. Honesty and a good effort will help you.

Be Consistent

Treat all employees equally. If you are going to write someone up for blatantly disobeying a policy, you have to write up everyone who breaks that same rule. Same goes for a positive example—praise employees when they deserve it and mark it on their performance reviews. If you don’t follow this rule, you could get slapped with a discrimination suit, especially if your documents can’t clear your name.

For guidance on documenting specific circumstances, please call a member of CAI’s Advice and Counsel Team at 919-878-9222 or 336-668-7746.

Photo Source: Victor1558

Best Practices for Getting Your Workplace Investigation off to a Good Start

Thursday, May 31st, 2012

During CAI’s 2012 Employment and Labor Law Update, attorney Bob Sar from the Ogletree Deakins law firm recommended several best practices for conducting successful workplace investigations. To minimize retaliation risks from related investigations, Bob lists three actions that organizations can take to protect themselves:

  • Establish a strong anti-retaliation policy
  • Develop a standard interview process
  • Document employee performance regularly

Bob shared with conference participants the four ultimate goals of a workplace investigation:

  • To determine if a problem exists
  • To protect the company
  • To provide an opportunity to demonstrate fairness
  • To encourage internal dispute resolution and reporting of problems

Employers should investigate all employee complaints, even if the complaining employee doesn’t want an investigation started. Bob advises employers to also investigate off-the-record complaints and never promise employees absolute confidentiality during the course of an investigation.

Once you have cause to investigate a workplace complaint, follow these three steps to start an effective investigation:

1. Determine if it’s necessary to implement immediate action on parties currently involved or soon-to-be involved.

  • Examples include suspension, separating employees, sending a status report to company leaders.

2. Select the best candidate to be the investigator.

  • Consider the following factors when choosing an appropriate candidate: how is his or her demeanor? Is this person empathetic? Does gender matter in regard to the complaint? Can he or she be impartial?

3. Review all documentation related to the complaining employee, the accuser and the actual complaint.

  • Consistent documentation is key for an effective investigation. Collect information from several sources, including employee personnel files, company policies and handbooks, and past complaint files. Reviewing emails and electronic files are helpful to the investigation as well.

Once you’ve selected your investigator, alerted people who should know about the investigation and collected necessary documents, you can proceed with employee interviews with the victim, the accused and witnesses to determine the outcome of the complaint.

For additional information and tips for conducting workplace investigations, please contact a member of CAI’s Advice and Counsel Team at 919-878-9222 or 336-668-7746.

Photo Source: Nina Matthews Photography

Employee Discipline and Documentation

Friday, March 4th, 2011

It is absolutely essential that well-prepared documentation accompany employee discipline in order to back up any decision regarding employment action. However, in order to have good documentation, a well-crafted disciplinary policy must exist.

Common problems in the workplace that require disciplinary action include poor attendance, performance issues and inappropriate behavior. Human Resources must have a plan to address infractions when they occur. Attorneys will confirm that most employment cases are won or lost on documentation or the lack of it. If an employee is terminated for coming in late every day for three months, but the infractions are never documented, that employee could win a lawsuit for wrongful termination.

Where to Start

Employers should audit their employee discipline and documentation practices. Make sure that your policies allow for a fair, equitable, and uniform handling of employee misconduct and the application of discipline. Disciplinary action usually occurs in a progressive sequence — verbal warning, written warning, final written warning and discharge. It is not necessary for all four steps to be followed. Discipline may begin at any step depending on the seriousness of the offense.

Offenses do not have to be of the same nature to constitute a violation serious enough to move on to the next step of the disciplinary action sequence.  Employers should construct and adopt a system that provides flexibility to give verbal warnings, suspensions, or terminations based on the seriousness of a particular incident, regardless of the disciplinary history of the employee.

Communicating to Employees

The next step is to clearly communicate the rules to employees. Policies should be included in the employee handbook.  You may want to periodically provide each employee with a special physical copy of the discipline policy. Employees should also be required to sign an acknowledgement of having received and read the policy, especially if any changes have occurred. Policies should be covered as part of any new employee orientation.

Most important, you’ll want to work closely with your supervisors and managers to make sure they understand the policies and the need to document infractions.

If you have questions about employee discipline and documentation, please contact a member of CAI’s Advice and Counsel team at 919-878-9222 or 336-668-7746.

Photo Source: Ken Wilcox