How To Create A Paper Trail During Employment

Respected Employment Law Lawyers Serving Washington Clients

In the early days of starting your business, the process of hiring and firing employees may have seemed relatively simple and straightforward. You could rely primarily on individuals you already knew, had only a few select employees that you worked with, and developed relationships of trust and respect that guide your workplace environment.

As your business grows, however, setting up proper policies and procedures for maintaining employee files and handling HR processes becomes more important. You may inadvertently hire individuals who don’t fit well within your organization, find it impossible to keep tabs on all employees at all times, and worry about what will happen if you need to fire an employee down the road.

For small and emerging companies, one of the most important things you need to do is develop a process of creating a thorough and accurate paper trail during the employment process. This starts at the date of hire and continues throughout the life of the employee’s term with your company, documenting both the challenges and the successes. Down the road, should difficult decisions about employment need to be made, this paper trail can guide you through difficult decisions and protect you from later lawsuits or complaints.

What Can a Paper Trail Help Tacoma Businesses to Do?

A strong paper trail and process for obtaining proper documentation can serve several important purposes across a wide range of business objectives.

Chronicle an employee’s successes and failures to influence important business decisions such as a promotion or a termination

  • Establish and document your company’s HR practices and procedures throughout your organizational structure
  • Ensure compliance with state and federal laws
  • Allow your company to document trends across employees and time
  • Influence strategic business decisions
  • Fight against potential lawsuits or grievances that may occur down the road

As the above list illustrates, creating a strong paper trail is important for many reasons beyond simply justifying an employee’s termination or promotion. Implementing procedures to keep thorough documentation also serves important strategic functions within a business and allows your company to make more informed decisions about how it operates and future hiring practices.

What Documentation Should You Collect from Employees?

A strong paper trail involves two things: what you obtain from your employee and the documentation you keep related to that employee.

As a starting point in creating an employee file, it is important to collect and keep all information from the employee related to hiring. This can include documentation such as a resume, reference letters, degrees or certifications, prior salary history, and notes from initial or follow-up interviews. In some cases it may also include union contracts or collective bargaining agreements, medical records, and prior awards or skill sets.

These documents serve as the basis for the paper trail and employee file that will follow an employee through the duration of their employment. It will also act as a reference point to look back on when evaluating an employee’s job performance. Employers should approach the initial documentation process as creating an overall picture of the employee at the time of hire.

What Documentation Should Employers Create?

Once the initial documents are obtained from an employee, most of the remaining documentation in an employee’s file will come from the employer. It is important for employers to put into place systems that encourage the regular creation of performance documentation and systematic updates to an employee’s file.

As a starting point, most employers should consider creating an employee handbook or manual that sets forth the policies and procedures of the company, the company’s expectations of the employees, and conduct that is prohibited by the employer. This handbook should be reviewed carefully and signed by employees as acknowledgment that they understand its contents. These signatures should then be included in the employee’s file.

Moving forward, employers should consider conducting regular employee job evaluations, including possible self-evaluations by the employees. These types of reviews should be taken seriously, with ample opportunity given for employees to receive and offer feedback.

In fostering a good work environment, employers should consider documenting not only concerns or disciplinary issues with an employee, but also accomplishments, successes, and awards. In this way, the employee’s file supports both the positive and negative decisions that an employer may make about an employee and can be used to substantiate decisions regarding transfers or promotions.

Where disciplinary action or an investigation into an employee’s conduct is necessary, employers should thoroughly and comprehensively document these steps. Particularly where there are claims of harassment or violation of workplace policies, employers should make sure to leave a paper trail. They should document that they addressed these issues, how they addressed the issues, and whether disciplinary action was recommended.

Finally, if termination is necessary, the paperwork should clearly reflect the basis and justifications for the termination decision. This documentation helps to protect an employer in the event of any retaliation or discrimination claim.

Washington Attorneys Advising You on Necessary Policies and Procedures

Developing a strong system of procedures that allow you to maintain a comprehensive paper trail within your business is an ongoing challenge. While businesses may invest time and effort to set up initial policies and strategies for success, dealing with different employee scenarios should lead employers to constantly refine and reevaluate their approach.

In addition to updating procedures through experience and feedback, companies can also utilize the expertise and resources of employment law attorneys. They can ensure that all the necessary protections are in place and the proper documents are being maintained.

At Bolan Law Group., our employment law attorneys can work with you to set up a proper system for maintaining employee documentation. They can also help in training your employees on how to assist in the documentation process, or help you evaluate and fine-tune existing employment policies and procedures. To talk with a knowledgeable lawyer about your options, contact us online or at (253) 470-2356.

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