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HR Insights with Ali: The Importance of Using Clear Language in Your Performance Documentation


Posted on 6/9/2017 by Ali Oromchian, Esq.
When it comes to protecting your practice from employee claims, documentation is your best friend. This is especially important when addressing allegations of discrimination and wrongful termination. But not all documentation is equal. The language you use can be the difference between nipping a complaint in the bud and having to shoulder the expense and stress of a long legal dispute. So, when it comes to documenting employee complaints, the clearer and more specific you can be, the better.

For example, let’s say that an employee makes an allegation of sexual harassment against their supervisor. This is absolutely the type of event for which a written record should be made. But rather than simply writing that “Susan alleged that her supervisor Bob sexually harassed her during a meeting,” you would be better served to write that “Susan alleged that Bob inappropriately touched her leg during the staff meeting on the afternoon of May 30, 2016.” This additional language can assist you both in demonstrating an attention to detail (and therefore to getting to the bottom of an issue), and in establishing a thorough record of behavior should additional allegations arise.

This approach can also be helpful when documenting issues with employee performance. For example, rather than saying “Dave arrived late for work on November 14, 2016,” you should say, “On November 14, 2016, Dave did not arrive for work until 10:03 am. He was scheduled to arrive by 8:30 am. He did not make anyone aware that he would be late, and when he arrived he provided no explanation for his delay.” This can be especially helpful in reviewing an employee’s performance, and can help you to remember whether employees with such issues took steps to try to justify them, or if they used the same excuse multiple times.

Of course, your documentation will only be helpful if you remember to complete it in the first place. The more you document, the more protections you will have should employee disputes arise. If you have any questions about documentation or other employee concerns, trust the experts at HR for HEALTH. Open a support ticket titled “employee performance” and let us know what issues you may have.
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