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Need to discipline employee? Prepare to back it up with contemporaneous records

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in Performance Reviews

Courts love to see good records that support employer discipline—records created at or very near the time events occurred. That’s why every manager needs to know how to document discipline and who gets a copy for later use.

Recent case: Carlos Rosario worked for years as a housekeeping manager at a Hilton in New York City until he was fired for poor performance. He claimed the real reason was that he was over age 40 and a man. According to Rosario, female and younger housekeeping managers weren’t held to as strict a standard as he was.

But the hotel had extensive contemporaneous records showing who it had disciplined (complete with the ages and gender of everyone it had disciplined) and how its progressive-discipline process worked.

Hilton pointed out that Rosario was disciplined for poor room cleanliness, and offered as proof inspection records showing the exact cleaning standards he had failed to meet. For example, the records showed that a room Rosario said had been cleaned to Hilton standards had hair on the sheets. Another revealed hair in a sink.

The hotel chain compared inspections for younger managers and female managers and found that when any housekeeping manager allowed similar rooms to pass inspection, they, too, had been disciplined and eventually discharged.

That was good enough for the court to toss out the case. (Rosario v. Hilton Worldwide, et al., No. 09-CV-5336, ED NY, 2011)

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