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Business Law

Small business Law: Documenting Employee Disciplinary Issues

Who really has time to document employee personnel issues? “If I write down every meeting I have with an employee, I will never get any real work done” is a common theme that small business lawyers often hear from their clients. Well, unless you enjoy the thought of undergoing a two-year employment litigation battle, its more than worth the time and effort to document employee personnel issues. The truth is, employment litigation is exploding throughout the Country. Documentation tells the story more convincingly than your own word given after the fact during litigation. Moreover, memories fade, but documents don’t forget. Take these simple steps to document employee performance problems and you will be on your way toward protecting your small business from needless liability:

State the facts. Its only takes a few minutes to jot down the facts from an employee meeting. Don’t bother providing your opinion. It is not valuable and takes much more time. “Meeting with Jane Doe on June 1st to discuss her repeated tardiness on May 15, 16 and 17. Informed her that continued tardiness will lead to discipline up to and including termination” is all that is needed in a particular situation. There is no reason to add comments such as “I do not believe Jane is willing to change her ways. ” This is unhelpful and suggests a bias against your employee.

Be Accurate. If you are going to take the time to put it in writing, makes sure it is accurate. If Jane Doe was absent on May 15th, make sure that you got the date right. Otherwise, if there is ever a question about whether Jane was absent, the document you have created for your small business might be questioned.

Take the time to Prepare the Document Right after the Meeting. The employee meeting just ended, but now your phone is ringing. Do you take the call and promise yourself that you will document the employee meeting at the end of the day? Don’t do it. Put the call on hold, jot down your notes from the meeting and then take the call. It’s that simple, and the best way to ensure that you actually do document the meeting. Otherwise, if history is any judge, the meeting won’t be documented at all. Simply put, written documentation should be prepared contemporaneous with the event if possible.

Cover All the Topics. If your meeting with a subordinate involved three distinct areas of discussion, at least mention all three in the written documentation. Otherwise, someone (a jury) may question if you really discussed point number three as you claim, but never bothered to write it down.
With these simple steps, you can help protect your small business from liability, while, at the same time, providing consistency in your workforce.