Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Document, Document, Document!

During the financial upheaval that has occurred over the last couple of years, more and more employers have been discharging workers. At one point, the rate of unemployment exceeded 10% nationwide. Regardless of whether the discharge occurs in an employment-at-will State, it is critical that the reasons for separation are documented. These days, it is simply not enough for an employer to fire someone without a reason. Granted, the laws in employment-at-will States generally provide that an employee may be fired for any reason or no reason, as long as it's not for a Constitutionally impermissible reason (i.e., race, gender, religion, national origin, etc.). However, firing someone simply because an employer "can," may give rise to claims of discrimination which are often very expensive to defend. Having a legitimate basis for the discharge may go a long way in helping to defeat claims of discrimination.

Documentation in this instance is key. By documenting poor work performance or misconduct at or about the time of the occurrence, employers create a paper trail which can be used later in the event the worker is fired and alleges that it was due to unlawful discrimination. Is it a pain in the posterior to do it? Perhaps. Certainly, employers typically have more important things to worry about in the grand scheme of things. On the other hand, can proper and timely documentation help save employers thousands of dollars (if not more) in the long run? In my opinion, absolutely!

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