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Employee Documentation: the Why and How for Small Business Owners

Employee documentation doesn’t sound fun at all, but it’s an important part of protecting your business. Keeping good documentation will make your life easier in the long run, and it’s not hard if you do it right.

What is Employee Documentation?

Employee documentation is a written and retained record of anything related to a person’s employment. Documentation includes:

  1. The employee’s job application, resume, job description, employee handbook, written policies and procedures, forms and certifications (i.e. Form I-9, TB clearance, CPR certification);

  2. Records of complaints, attendance, good or bad conduct, discussions around performance;

  3. Anything the employee has reviewed or signed.

Why is Employee Documentation important?

Documentation protects the company in case of a lawsuit. It provides evidence to back up your reasons for terminating an employee, and shows you did your due diligence in a sexual harassment claim. Documentation eliminates gray areas so your employees know exactly what’s expected of them (i.e. the handbook states they’re expected to return to the office between appointments, so they know they can’t go holoholo when they have a couple hours between meetings).

Best practices for Employee Documentation

  1. Write out the documentation as soon after the incident as possible.

  2. Include the who, what, where, when (date and time), and any consequences that happened as a result.

  3. Just the facts, no judgements and no opinions. (“Joe was 40 minutes late on 9/14/2018” DON’T ADD “because he isn’t dependable”)

  4. Explain what happened from start to finish. Be detailed and specific. Include pertinent information as it relates to the issue. You want a 3rd party to be able to understand exactly what happened.

  5. It’s a good policy for the employer or HR manager to sign and date the documentation and have the employee sign and date as well. If the employee refuses to sign, write “refused to sign” and date it.

Real-world example

Joe’s co-workers have been complaining about him because he’s always late, but he was terminated for abandoning his job. The documentation related to the termination will include:

  1. The fact that Joe submitted a vacation request but it was denied (include date/time and copies of the request and denial).

  2. The fact that Joe was a “no show” on those dates.

The documentation related to termination will not include the complaints from co-workers because the termination was not a result of those complaints.

Individuals should keep their own documentation

If anything weird or uncomfortable happens at the office or with co-workers outside of the office, it’s a good idea to keep your own documentation just in case that incident leads to something where you need to protect yourself.

In the murky world where business ownership meets with legal drama, it’s important to know that if something wasn’t documented, it didn’t happen. Documentation matters at every level – from setting up your business, to day-to-day operations, to dealing with problem employees. If you’re confused, we’re happy to help. Give us a call at (808) 354-0498.

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