Memories fade and employees come and go. That’s why it’s crucial for HR to keep certain records for future reference. Among these records are organizational charts showing who had supervisory and other authority over other employees.
Here’s why: Lawsuits over lost promotions or firings can take years before they actually go to trial, even if employees have a relatively short time frame in which to make their original claims with the EEOC or a state discrimination agency.
But litigation often centers on work relationships and reporting authority. Was the person who allegedly discriminated, harassed or otherwise harmed a subordinate a supervisor? Did that person have a significant say in promotions, demotions or firings?
Without clear records, you may not be able to explain to a court who was actually in charge and who was not.
Recent case: Stephanie Goebelbecker, who is black, claimed her supervisor told her that she’d never be promoted because she is a woman. When she was constantly passed over for promotions, she sued, alleging race and sex discrimination.
Her employer told the court that the man Goebelbecker said was her supervisor really had had no supervisory authority over her and introduced an organizational chart.
Unfortunately, although the year in question was 2002, the document bore the date Dec. 27, 2006. The court noted other discrepancies as well and ignored the chart.
Despite this goof, the employer lucked out. The court dismissed the case for other unrelated reasons. (Goebelbecker v. Plastipak Packaging, No. 1:06-CV-576, ND OH, 2007)
Best bet: Print a dated copy of the organizational chart each time it is updated, and file the physical copy. A neat, chronological file is much more likely to be regarded as authentic than an electronic copy—which could be manipulated. Don't discard old org charts unless everyone on that chart has been gone for at least three years.