We’ve said it many times, but it bears repeating: The best way to prevent lawsuits is to carefully document every employment decision.
HR professionals and supervisors should be able to show exactly when a decision was made, who made it and what the basis for the decision was.
Use a time stamp for documents, date all memos and make sure you can retrieve e-mails and other electronic missives. You should be able to quickly and easily put your fingers on any aspect of an employee’s disciplinary history.
Here are the other key steps to documenting personnel decisions:
1. Maintain a separate file for each employee. Include applications, promotions, and other documents. Keep a separate restricted and confidential file for any sensitive medical information, such as ADA documentation and certifications. Keep separate files for confidential reference checks, too.
2. Archive any electronic documents so you can retrieve them when needed. Have a standard preservation and retention procedure.
3. Keep track of introductory or probation periods. Note whether an employee has successfully completed the period, when the period ended and whether it was extended or modified.
4. Make sure each employee has a current and accurate job description, including essential functions of the job. No law requires employers to maintain job descriptions, but they’re essential for evaluating ADA reasonable accommodation requests. Plus, job descriptions prove that you carefully considered duties when you classified the position as either exempt or hourly.
5. Make sure that supervisors provide HR with copies of all evaluations, written warnings and the like. They should also notify HR of any oral warnings issued. Those should be noted in the employee’s file. There should be no question about what discipline has been levied, who decided on the discipline or when it was imposed.
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