In my last blog post, I challenged employers to resolve to improve their workplace documentation practices in 2013. This post is the first in a promised series of practical tips for achieving your resolution.

How many times have you heard the phrase: "If it’s not in writing, it didn’t happen."? That saying has special meaning in the workplace context. Judges, jurors, arbitrators, EEOC investigators, unemployment referees, employees, and last, but not least, ME as the attorney retained to defend your company, expect employers to keep good records, and to be able to produce them when a question arises about a workplace complaint, incident, or employment decision. 

Documentation comes in many configurations. Employers can document through formal reports, printed forms, memoranda, performance evaluations, disciplinary memos, phone notes, day planners, post-its, and even on the back of cocktail napkins. In future blogs, I will discuss how, when, and where to document or record workplace events, observations, communications, but first things first: WHAT SHOULD BE DOCUMENTED?

Here is a list of the many "documentation worthy" workplace activities.

  • Recruiting materials and employment applications. (Necessary to establish compliance with Title VII, ADA, ADEA, OFCCP, Affirmative Action Regulations, and many other laws recognized by their acronyms.)
  • New hire information. (Critical to demonstrate terms of employment and compliance with federal and state laws. Includes employment application and references, criminal background check, required certifications and licenses, drug tests results, driver’s license checks, I-9s, etc.)
  • Payroll.  (Required by law and must be retained under the IRC, EPA, FMLA, FLSA.)
  • Performance evaluations. (Essential to ensure clear communication of employer’s expectations, support employment decisions, track progress, correct deficiencies and defend lawsuits.)
  • Misconduct and discipline. (Important to address employee behavior and violation of workplace rules and standards of conduct, establish patterns of behavior and administer progressive discipline in a fair and consistent manner.)
  • Employee incidents, complaints, and investigations. (Necessary to establish a precise accounting of events that are critical to legal disputes and to promote better decision making.)
  • Leaves of absence. (Key to calculating, tracking, and coordinating leaves of absence under FMLA, workers’ compensation ADA, USERRA, Florida domestic violence leave law, and voluntary employer policies.)
  •  Absenteeism and tardiness. (Necessary to track hours of non-exempt employees and to ensure the fair and consistent administration of employer’s absenteeism policy.)
  • Accommodations. (Convenient to demonstrate employer’s participation in the required interactive process of accommodating disability, religious practices, etc.)
  • Employee acknowledgments. (Valuable to prove that employee attended training sessions and received policies, write-ups, performance evaluations, and required notifications.)

While this list is not exhaustive, it gives you an idea of the diverse workplace activities that should be documented and why proper documentation is important.

Next post in this workplace documentation practices series: How to document? Carefully.