In this HR quick tip, we will focus on a few best practices when documenting potentially litigious employment related events.
The primary purpose of documenting an employee’s experience should not be solely to anticipate legal issues. However, there are legal considerations we should keep in mind when memorializing employment events. Should you be faced with a wrongful termination suit or any other employment-related legal action, documentation in an employee’s personnel file, as well as organizational emails, are “discoverable”.
The best way to avoid legal issues in documentation is to remind your supervisors to consider the:
- Who: Who was involved?
- What: What happened or what is the issue? Include what needs to be done to resolve or correct the situation.
- Where: Where did the incident or issue occur?
- When: When did it occur?
- How: How will the situation be resolved or corrected?
In all areas of documentation write in clear, specific language that keeps to the facts and imagine your documentation blown up on a large screen in a courtroom for all to see.
The burden of proof of why a certain employment action was taken lies on the employer. Good thorough documentation can be a shield in litigation and bad documentation, or no documentation, can be a weapon of mass destruction in litigation.
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