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Tuesday
May042010

Employee Files: Get Personal


You probably have heard over and over again the things you must not put in your employee files. There is one thing you may not think to add which can be a lifesaver in the event of suit.

If a former employee sues you, how would you like to have a statement from the plaintiff gushing about what a great place you have to work? Your attorney would love it!

It could happen. Employees can say things like this from time to time to you in greeting cards, handwritten notes, emails and other communications. Keep these personal notes from employees in their personnel file.

Negative comments can also be helpful when defending a claim. They can be used to show the plaintiff is motivated by a personal grudge, not the events they now claim occurred.

Before you question the propriety of keeping personal employee statements, remember how employee attorneys can use your statements against you. They start with nice things said in reviews and argue that reflects the employee’s actual performance. Everything else is part of plot to discriminate or retaliate against their client for an impermissible purpose.

That argument of course is false. But it can be effective. Saving employee comments, both good and bad, in employee files can help paint a truer picture of employee performance when there is a dispute. The mere existence of these statements might even help prevent a former employee from filing a claim in the first place. 

A prior LegalBrief discussed supervisor logs. These are a fabulous line of defense for employers. The importance of this management and legal prevention tool can not be overstated. Instruct your supervisors to also note positive and negative comments by the employees they supervise in their logs.

If you are not keeping employee communications and making note of employee comments, start now. Employees collect information about you before they bring suit. You need to document the true workplace environment. That includes “getting personal.”

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