It’s a business imperative that’s especially important for HR: Make sure your computer systems allow you to retrieve critical information immediately on demand.
That’s essential if you are ever sued, because long delays in providing documentary evidence can lead to needless litigation costs—and could even mean you’ll lose the case.
Recent case: When several employees sued after they didn’t get expected bonuses, their attorneys, during the discovery process, asked for various documents they believed would show they were entitled to the money. But the employer couldn’t find some of the documents.
It wasn’t until a former employee testified about where he kept the documents on the computer servers that the company produced 17,000 pages of documents on eight CDs.
The judge wasn’t happy because the trial was nearing. He ruled that because of the delay, the company wouldn’t be allowed to use any of the evidence to defend itself, while the employees who sued were free to use it.
The employer appealed and persuaded the court that it should get another trial because it hadn’t purposely delayed providing the documents. The court agreed. (Jneid, et al., v. Tripole, et al., No. G039723, Court of Appeal of California, 4th Appellate Division, 2009)
Final note: The employer lucked out in this case. Make sure you can retrieve information promptly. It isn’t worth risking angering a trial judge or paying the legal costs to appeal.