Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Employment Rights | Documentation

Documenting the ups and downs with your loved ones and friends may not float your boat, but whenever there is a problem at work, write it down. And keep it handy.

If you ever need to speak with an employment lawyer about work-related issues like unemployment or discrimination, the lawyer will ask you what written information is available.

In law, documentation is helpful for the following reasons:
1.     You boost your credibility in court. In a common “he said / she said” workplace situation, the one who records what happens will generally enjoy more credibility that an opponent who  relies solely on oral testimony. A judge, lawyer, or jury will likely view the record-keeper as someone who is more reliable.
2.     Time is on your side. Writing down what happened on the same day the incident occurred improves the weight of your evidence. Over time, people tend to forget what happens, or the way they interpret will change. For example, a joke that falls flat may devolve into a “nasty and hurtful remark” or, conversely, it becomes more and more "hilarious.”
3.     When you write, cite examples. If someone describes a boss or employee too broadly, the result may be more harmful than helpful. Calling someone a “nuisance,” “horrible,” “hurtful,” “dangerous,” and so on may evoke strong emotion, but the facts that led up to the emotion are not resolved. Compare “Mr. Santoni was a horrible boss" to "Mr. Santoni was a horrible boss because he informed me on April 12, 2010 that he modified confidential accounting records before the end of every quarter, and threatened to fire me if I told anyone about it.”
4.     Focus on what happened, not your emotion. If your tone is angry or abusive, then how did you likely behave in the heat of the moment? We are not robots without emotion, but unless if you are a trained spy, your emotions will probably get the best of you from time to time. Note your emotions when you write, but focus on what happened: the who, what, when, where, how.

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