Let’s say that you are being sued by a former employee and now you have to go to court. You aren’t worried, though because you feel that you have documented why you fired the employee and you are sure that once the judge sees your documentation, he or she will agree with you!

Shock of all shocks! Your documentation is not considered good enough and you have to pay the $20,000 judgment against you!

What went wrong? Here are 9 common problems that can torpedo your HR Documentation efforts:

  1. Unsigned or undated documentation. THIS IS THE NUMBER ONE FAILURE IN DOCUMENTATION! My philosophy is – if it isn’t signed, it didn’t happen! Sign and date everything and have the employee dot the same.
  2. Illegibility. In court, neatness counts!
  3. Inaccuracy. The document looks perfect, but the facts are wrong. Even one error makes the entire document suspect.
  4. Unsupported conclusions. Don’t write “the employee was drunk” without documenting the reasons you believe that to be true – for example
    “liquor on breath, slurred speech.” Statements by objective witnesses will shore up your conclusions even more.
  5. Waffling. If the employee isn’t making 200 widgets per hour, do not just write, “Mike’s performance must improve.” The judge will ask, “Improve from what to what?” Be specific
  6. Do not make excuses. Statements such as “You failed – but I know we’ve all been pushing hard lately” may win you a nice guy award, but it won’t win your case.
  7. Don’t lie … even to be nice! Saying someone was let go due to a layoff rather than for cause, if there was cause, can backfire big time in a wrongful termination suit.
  8. Be consistent. If you have written one employee up for an infraction, you must write up every employee who did the same thing. Otherwise, you are open to a charge of discrimination.
  9. Don’t over-or under-focus. Writing up every tiny infraction makes you seem petty. But writing only the job-ending incident makes you appear emotion-driven.
Of course, all of the 9 tips above should be practices not just by you but by everyone in your  organization! That is especially critical if you are in a one-person or very small HR Department since you cannot be watching everyone at once.


– California Employer Daily Newsletter



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