Many HR professionals and supervisors have had difficulty documenting negative performance and proper disciplinary actions for many years. Even the best of supervisors finds this part of the disciplinary action as uncomfortable or anxiety-provoking. Moreover, incorrect documenting of negative behavior or lack of documentation can be an Employer’s nightmare. It can also lead to litigation and other scrutiny and allegations of discrimination and wrongful termination which can impact an organization’s reputation and can deliver huge fines and penalties.
There are federal and state laws that determine what documentation is needed, where it should go, and who sees it. Moreover, there are documentation mandates for Employers when it comes to COVID-19, vaccines documents, and different medical documents that can be used to confirm vaccine information. There are clear guidelines for Employers to ensure they follow the medical guidelines as well as the legal written policy to avoid litigation.
It is clear that documentation is key in the workplace. When it comes to written documentation, employers should ensure that they stick to factual documentation versus coming to a generalized legal conclusion, such as the employee committed harassment or discrimination. In order to terminate an employee, generally, all that is needed is to show the employee violated a policy. If the employer documents what they believe is a legal conclusion, this can be an admission of legal liability vs. an internal policy violation.
Creating a solid documentation trail is critical for employers when working with an employee on performance issues. Documentation creates a written history of the happenings and discussions that occur around specific events. In a legal proceeding, having documentation about the employee’s past performance is key to obtaining an outcome favorable to the employer.
Most employers have a progressive discipline policy that involves providing feedback in a series of increasingly more formal communications starting with verbal warnings and ending with written warnings prior to a termination decision. Determining how, when, and what to include in performance documentation can often be tricky.
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