Discovering People


    So What’s The Point Of Documentation? – Avoid Legal Issues

    Over the past decade more and more employees have been taking employers to court over employment issues. Sometimes those lawsuits are justified: sometimes they’re not. However one thing is sure: you want to protect yourself and your company from unwarranted or malicious lawsuits that have no basis in fact.

    So where does the documentation fit? If a complaint is filed that alleges some form of discrimination, you will need to show that the decision (promotion, demotion, firing) was made on the basis of legitimate performance issues.

    To do that, there must be some form of paper trail or documentation of performance difficulties, which shows three things:

    • There have been problems.
    • Those problems have been communicated to the employee.
    • The employee has had a chance to address those problems.

    In the absence of proper documentation, the court or legal authority is likely to determine that the decision had some illegal basis. In other words, once a compliant is filed, it is your company’s responsibility to demonstrate it is false. The documentation is your offer of proof. So, if you are wondering why Human Resources departments are so insistent on the completion of all relevant forms, that’s probably the explanation.

    Another significant reason of keeping proper performance management documentation, is a means to track performance over time, so that data can be used to make better decisions in the future.

    Special Note: A Signature Worth Its Weight – its not enough to have documentation in the event of a discrimination lawsuit. You must demonstrate that the employee has received notice of any performance problems prior to dismissal. Remember simply giving three written warnings is a misconception. It’s standard procedure for any documentation to be dated and signed by both parties. The signatures constitute an acknowledgement that the information has been shared, not necessarily an agreement on the content.

    Source: Manager’s guide to performance reviews, McGraw Hill


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