Some people believe that keeping records of workplace incidents and investigations leads to greater risk, because it makes it challenging to hide the fact that you were aware of an important issue that should have been given more attention. That’s a big mistake. In fact, not documenting incidents and investigations properly can lead to huge risk.
The Department of Labor, the EEOC, the DOJ, jurors and judges alike, expect employers to keep good records and be able to produce them when necessary. Companies are in danger of losing lawsuits, even frivolous ones, if they don’t have the documentation to back up their actions.
The Importance of Record Keeping
A growing number of rules and regulations apply to businesses when they need to demonstrate that sufficient action was taken to address workplace complaints. One of the easiest ways to create evidence to prove your case is to document all of the steps taken from the time an incident was reported to the conclusion and decision made after the completion of an investigation. According to an article on HRHero.com:
“Documentation can be used as a key tool for legal defense. Good documentation by supervisors and managers can mean the difference between a company winning and losing an employment-related lawsuit. For example, good documentation of an employee’s pattern of poor performance and discipline can establish that the employee’s firing wasn’t related to discrimination based on race, sex, age, religion, disability, or national origin. An employer may have a much more difficult time proving that without such documentation.”
Can you afford not to take the time to document internal incidents and the rest of the investigation process? If taking the time to record incidents and information means the difference between winning or losing a case in court, wouldn’t it be easier to start documenting these matters now? The idea that you cannot be held liable simply because there’s no written record of an incident isn’t going to help you out.
Documentation can also benefit your business should an employee lodge a complaint after they have been removed from your company. The longer it takes for an incident to be reported, the worse will be your recall of the events and reasoning behind decisions made, which could make your statements invalid. Employees may come and go – as well as their feelings toward an employer – but the documents will always remain.
What to Record
Every incident, complaint and disciplinary action should be recorded. Records should include:
- Factual written summaries of incidents noting date, time, location, and persons involved.
- Memos and letters
- Relevant work documents
- Meeting notes
- Performance evaluations
- Any other relevant paperwork to document your workplace problem – investigation interviews, witness statements, etc.