One of the most important preventative steps employers can take toward reducing liability is proper documentation of disciplinary actions.
Imagine you have an employee who has been with your company for several years. He or she has a documented history of disciplinary actions concerning his or her conduct and performance. He or she has received numerous warnings, counseling and suspension for attendance issues, and suspension for violation of other company policy. After a final warning, this employee is a “no call-no show” to work. You terminate his or her employment. After termination, he or she files a charge of discrimination against you. Last month, a federal district court in Massachusetts found that because of a series of documented violations of company policies such as these, no reasonable jury could conclude that an employee who brought a race and national origin discrimination claim against his employer had been performing his job satisfactorily at the time of his discharge. Thus, he could not establish a prima facie case of discrimination and the court dismissed his case.
Now imagine if you had not documented this history of disciplinary actions. When faced with a claim of discrimination, you have to try to piece together the chronology of events, but you have nothing in writing to evidence the employee’s conduct and performance and memory of specifics is foggy. The employee disputes your version of the facts. Now the case goes to the jury or worse you settle.
The importance of effective documentation of disciplinary actions cannot be overstressed. Creating and implementing a standard for documentation of disciplinary actions and training managers and supervisors on such standard can help employers defeat frivolous claims of discrimination.