One of the most difficult and time consuming tasks that has confronted me over my lengthy career as a Management Labor Employment Lawyer is the continuing lack of documentation - i.e. evidence - that exists when I am attempting to defend either a Union Grievance, an EEOC Charge, etc. The most important thing that a Supervisor, HR Professional or Employer Representative must remember is that you have to accurately and completely document any event dealing with Employee Discipline.
Here are some very simple rules to follow to establish good documentation:
- Any document should clearly reflect who prepared the document for future reference. Make sure that any document that is prepared is signed by its preparer for future reference.
- Make sure that the document reflects the full name of the involved parties - complaining Employee, complained about Employee and any witnesses. It is extremely important that these individuals be fully identified for future reference.
- Make absolutely certain that the documentation reflects the full story, including dates, times, and places if applicable and has a very clear statement as to what happened and who was involved.
- Make certain that the documentation is legible. If it is being hand written, make sure that it is written in a way that the reader does not have to try to interpret what is being said. The documentation should use the KIS System (Keep it Simple). If it is hand written and then typed, make sure the hand written document is attached to the typed document.
- Make sure that the document provides enough explanation and background information so that it will make sense to not only you, but any additional reader, which may include outside Counsel for the Employer, opposing Counsel, and possibly Government Agency Judges and Juries.
- When an individual who is listed as the complained of Employee is interviewed, make certain that the complained of Employee has an opportunity to review any report that you prepared. In an investigative scenario, clearly document that the complained of Employee was shown documentation that was prepared and was able to make their statement about the incident and its investigation after reviewing the initial data.
- Make sure the documents reflect facts, not conclusions. It is extremely important that the document exist as an evidentiary piece of material stating facts, not an indictment or support for the complaint.
- Please annotate documentation to reflect if, in fact, the complained of Employee has been involved in similar incidents in the past with clearly documented dates, time, places, etc.
- Make sure that the report or documentation reflects the complained of Employee's story so that the incident is fully documented.
- If a document is being used as a disciplinary record, please state very clearly that the complained of Employee is advised that if incidents like this continue to occur, they will be subject to further discipline, including the possibility of termination.
Accurate and complete documentation may prove a way to quickly and cost effectively resolve the matter!
Questions? Contact Attorney Walter J. Liszka in our Chicago office at (312)629-9300 or by email at [email protected]