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The best reason to retain personnel documents: Employees–and courts–have long memories

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in Employment Law

Employees are often only too happy to go back years to come up with circumstantial evidence that their employers are biased, citing incidents that on their own could not be the basis for a lawsuit.

Recent case: Pamela Hanlon claimed that Casino Queen, her former employer, paid her less than male employees because of her sex. To prove this, she listed a series of comments and actions occurring over many years.

For example, she said her boss had altered men’s time sheets to show they arrived on time when they arrived late. She said that never happened for female employees. She also said men got preference for overtime work.

But none of those incidents happened within 300 days of Hanlon’s EEOC complaint. The casino asked the court to exclude that evidence.

The court refused. It reasoned that, while none of the comments made more than 300 days before the filing deadline were sufficient to support a lawsuit, together they could be used to show bias that affected later actions against Hanlon. (Hanlon v. Casino Queen, No. 10-453, SD IL, 2011)

Final note: Would you know how to counter evidence about events two, three or more years ago? Could you find supervisors’ notes? What if the supervisors had long since retired or quit? Would you be able to contact them for their side of the story? Consider those questions before you destroy old notes, files and contact information.

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