Document or It Didn’t Happen
The following article was provided by Berchem Moses PC. It is posted here with permission.
I often joke when doing supervisor training that I could just say one word and if supervisors actually followed through on it, it would be all they really needed to takeaway from a two-hour training session.
Well, while an obvious overstatement, there is much truth in this quip.
Whether defending a grievance in a unionized setting, or a discrimination complaint, a workers’ compensation retaliation complaint, or a simple unemployment claim in a non-union setting, there is no substitute for good documentation, and generally that which follows some semblance of progressive discipline.
So aside from just making sure you document counselings or employee misdeeds, what do we want to make sure is included in such documentation?
Here are some quick tips:
- Date the document (All too often I want to establish the timing of an event only to learn the writer did not date the document.)
- Put your name on it (From time to time I will receive a dated written warning or description of an incident, but it does not state who the author is.)
- Describe the incident/conduct briefly and succinctly (For example, “I refer to last weeks incident …” let the document stand on its own to describe the incident.)
- Have witnesses sign and date statement
- If you intend for the document to be disciplinary, say so (For example, “please consider this a written warning.”)
- Don’t sugar-coat your write-up—you are paid to supervise
- Describe the incident as factually as possible (The who, what, when, and where.)
- After you draft it, put it down and come back later in the day or the next day to finalize. That way any immediate emotions which may have made their way into the document can be toned down
Finally, remember, that from an employment standpoint, if you did not document it, it might as well have never happened. Judges, juries, and hearing officers in many cases will not just accept your word.
About the author: Floyd Dugas is a senior partner with Berchem Moses PC. He is head of the firm’s labor and employment practice.
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