Documenting Employee Behavior and Performance
Generating and managing fair, accurate, and non-biased documentation of employee behavior and performance is one of the most important skills all supervisors need to develop. When supervisors and managers create even as much as handwritten notes, they’re creating potential litigation exhibits that could have significant consequences down the road. Good documentation by supervisors and managers can mean the difference between a company winning and losing an employment-related lawsuit.
Employee documentation’s role in investigations and lawsuits
For example, good documentation of an employee’s pattern of poor performance and discipline can establish that the employee’s firing wasn’t related to discrimination based on race, sex, age, religion, disability, or national origin. An employer may have a much more difficult time proving that without such documentation.
Good documentation also can make employment-related claims less of a headache. For example, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and other federal and state agencies that enforce employment laws often ask employers during investigations to provide documentation of performance issues involving both the employee who filed the charge and other employees who have had similar issues. Again, the presence of such documentation may make the proceeding much easier for the business to defend.
The absence of such documentation of employees’ behavior and performance may prompt an agency to dig deeper, push to interview witnesses, or take other measures designed to elicit information that it expects should have been documented or find out the reasons for the absence of documentation.
Documenting employee behavior and performance also is critical because memories aren’t perfect. Remembering a specific performance issue involving one of a hundred employees months or even years ago isn’t easy. Moreover, because the unfortunate reality is that we live in an increasingly litigious society, an employee may deny that the performance issue ever happened and leave the employer in a “he said, she said” situation when trying to justify a personnel decision.
Basic Training for Supervisors guidebook series, including documentation and performance evaluations
Employee performance evaluations and progressive discipline go hand in hand as tools supervisors and managers can successfully use to correct behavior, motivate employees, and set employee goals. Generally, most employers conduct written performance reviews annually or semi-annually. However, all companies should consider conducting unscheduled reviews if changes occur in an employee’s performance or duties.
First Line of Defense, DVD-based supervisor training series including a session on performance evaluations
Employee documentation includes electronic documents, such as e-mail
Not so long ago, document retention meant maintaining the proper printed materials that might be needed in case of a lawsuit or charge filed with a government agency. Today, businesses have to worry about not only paper documents, but electronic ones as well, such as e-mail. Those electronic documents may also be residing in places you might not think about, such as your supervisors’ hand-held digital devices.
HR Guide to Employment Law: A practical compliance reference manual covering 14 topics, including discipline and documentation