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Elizabeth A. Semler
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Employment eAlert: Employers' New Years Resolution: Document, Document, Document!

December 2012

Elizabeth A. Semler
503.243.1661 x 264
As 2012 draws to a close, employers should take time to confirm that proper documentation of employment decisions has been made. For 2013 and beyond, here are the key documentation practices every employer should follow:
  1. Do it Now.  Document events, incidents, and meetings right away, preferably the same hour, certainly the same day, but never more than several days beyond the event.
  2. Keep it Permanent.  Print out documents created on-line, or type or write documentation in ink, so as to withstand subsequent allegations that documents have been altered.
  3. Include Everything.  When documenting personnel matters, include all relevant facts, even potentially negative or inconsistent information.
  4. Just the Facts.  Written documents should include facts. Employers should record what happened, when, where, who was present, and who said what to whom. Do not include legal analysis, speculation, opinions, snide comments, or conclusions.
  5. Make it Relevant.  Employers do not need to document everything that occurs in the workplace. Documentation should be created for significant employment-related events such as: performance appraisals, incidents of policy violations/rule-breaking, and meetings to discuss such incidents, including counseling efforts.
  6. Signatures Matter.  Any written documentation should be shown to the employee involved, and the employee should be given an opportunity to comment upon his or her version of the events. The employee's response should also be documented. At a minimum, the employee(s) involved should be asked to sign the documentation and, if an employee refuses to sign, that should also be documented.
The bottom line:  Employers who hope to defeat employment claims must be prepared to articulate and show a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for their actions. Maintaining timely, thorough, and accurate documentation of employment actions can greatly assist in that task. Make that your New Year's workplace resolution for 2013.

If you would like more information about best documentation policies and practices, or have questions about any employment law issues, please feel free to contact us.

Check out our Employment Law Blog to stay updated on current issues: employmentlaw.sussmanshank.com

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