In Part 1 we looked at why it's vital for organizations to document employment situations diligently.

But what constitutes good documentation that reduces employer risk? Of course every situation is fact specific but, practically speaking, here's some guidance on some types of documentation and what to include:

1. Summaries work well when behavior is being tracked over a period of time. When documenting a disciplinary situation, be sure to cite specific examples and information that aptly illustrate the problem.

In a summary, it's important to answer the classic questions who? what? when? where? and why? by including:

  • Description of the offense , why it is an offense, when and where it occurred, names of witnesses and any other critical details;
  • Copies of any supporting documents such as time sheets or production records.
  • Description of any disciplinary action that has been or will be taken;
  • Recap (including dates) of any prior oral conversations or disciplinary actions that have a bearing on the incident;
  • Description of the behavior expected from the employee;
  • Employee's version of the events;
  • If the employee has any appeal rights, the procedure to exercise those;
  • Future action to occur if the offensive behavior does not cease;
  • Dates and signatures-sign and date the form and give the employee an opportunity to sign. If the employee refuses to sign, note that.

2. Forms work well for individual incidents and help employers standardize the documentation process. Forms may save time by prompting supervisors and managers for information and can help ensure consistency across the organization. They can also encourage the proper analysis of situations and consistent disciplinary actions. Forms may provide details and information that may later be incorporated into summary documentation, depending upon the circumstances. HRSentry subscribers may access a sample documentation form in the Discipline and Corrective Action Kit.

3. Other types of documentation further the human resources goal of risk mitigation. Here are a few examples usually handled by the HR department itself:

  • Employee Acknowledgements-These are signed and dated forms to prove that employees have received and understand important information. Acknowledgements are useful when providing such items as: employee handbooks, job descriptions, and important policies such as anti-sexual harassment, anti-retaliation and confidentiality.
  • Proof of Training-When you train employees and supervisors on important topics such as sexual harassment awareness and , document attendance with a sign-in sheet or use training software that tests for comprehension.
  • Employee Communications-Documentation of important communication with employees can be copies of letters, emails or notes based on a phone conversation. Examples include forms designating FMLA leave, hire letters, and contracts.
  • Recruitment Files-Maintain applications for at least one year or longer. Keep copies of all communications and candidate information in case there is an allegation of discrimination.
  • Documentation of an Investigation of a Complaint-This a huge topic by itself. For further information, see our HRSentry blog on investigating allegations of sexual harassment.

Electronic files, backed up and with password protection, can help employers save space when documenting. Be sure to hold supervisors and managers accountable for their role in supporting this critical risk management function.

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