There is often confusion among employers concerning the legal requirements for recordkeeping and retention of employee files and other employment-related records. Not only are there federal recordkeeping requirements, but individual states and many cities also have requirements that must be followed. Some requirements apply to most or all employers, while others apply primarily to government contractors and subcontractors. Many of these requirements are dependent on the particular law which applies to the type of record and the number of employees. Do you have a human resources department that is familiar with your responsibilities as an employer? If not, do you know what is required of your business? Are you doing it correctly?
At NavigationHR we not only know what records to keep, but how to keep them.
We believe that the ultimate goal of performance management is not to create a record that can withstand attack but to help an employee improve so that he or she has no need to attack. Effective documentation helps employees to focus on areas for improvement. However, if an employee is let go, proper documentation helps to show that the reason you are providing is a legitimate one and not a post-termination pretext. Plus, no matter what the legal theory may be for attacking the discharge, fact-finders consider fairness. You want to be fair to your employees. Fairness always matters, and documentation increases actual and perceived fairness.
While good documentation is important, bad documentation can be worse than no documentation at all. The content of your paper trail—including word choice—is critical. Poorly documenting events can create the perception that an employer is acting in an unlawful or discriminatory manner when no such ill intent exists.
Generally speaking, proper documentation should include:
The employer’s expectation.
How the employee has failed to meet that expectation.
Prior counseling or discipline.
The employer’s expectations for the employee going forward.
The consequences of the employee’s failure to make the requisite improvement.