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Learn your employer's documentation tricks!
October 06, 2009


Employee Rights News You Can Use



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Date October 6, 2009

Issue #07



Learn your employer's negative documentation tricks! Part 1

Employers are commonly advised by their lawyers to focus on documentation, documentation and more documentation when it comes to...

  • complaints
  • discipline issues
  • job evaluations
  • medical leave
  • salaries and benefits
  • harassment
  • discrimination
  • disability

...and more. Why? Because they know how important it is to be able to "justify" why they fire, demote, not promote, negatively evaluate, deny training, etc. Don't get me wrong all employers are not out to get us, it just seems that way sometimes ;0)

Companies are advised to place a lot of importance on documentation to weather the storm of lawsuits that can and do occur. Since documentation is important to employers, shouldn't it be important to employees! I'm always amazed at the types of employment questions I get from people who have failed to do just that.

They find themselves in the midst of an adverse employment action and have no written record to support their position. "My boss never said that was part of my job, so why is she now saying I'm not doing my job!" This is one of the reasons all employees should make it their business to document various job situations that may affect them positively or negatively. The company's documentation of all policies and procedures should be very specific and easily understood. Here is what you should look for from your employer's documentation.

Employee conduct needing to change

Your boss should describe the conduct, not describe you. All the documentation about you should be objective and not subjective. For example, "You have the type of personally that turns people off", is describing you and is subjective. "Your co-workers are missing some points when you perform the ABC function", describes the conduct and is objective.

What does your boss expect from you?

A company's expectations should be spelled out specifically and easy to understand. For example, A job description may say, "expected to be on time", "work documents turned in on time", or my favorites, "other duties as needed" or "other related duties as required". The following is better, "Your work schedule starts at 9:00 a.m." and "Work documents should be given to supervisor by 5:00 p.m. Monday and Wednesday."

When I see my two favorites in a job description, I always make sure the employer tells me EXACTLY what they mean in the job interview. In an interview for a degreed systems IT position I asked what does "other duties as needed" mean? I was told "mopping floors". Hmmmm...houskeeping duties are associated with maintaining computer systems and pc networks?!?

Exact steps to meet goals

Our employers should give specific details on what steps we should take to improve job performance. "Our production procedure is going to be changing starting next week so be ready." The following is better. "I have outlined step by step what the current change in the workload is and the tools you will need to perform these changes to meet department production."

In my own employment experience, understanding how employers document me and how I document them has been critical. In fact, had I not learned how and what to document I would be talking about my job as past tense instead of present tense. That's all for now, next month I'll detail steps in "bulletproofing" how, what and when to document if the boss decides to do you in!




Top Tips!


Do you truly understand what "At Will" employment means?

Before you can learn your basic employee rights, you need to understand what "employment at will" means. Legally defined it means, "Either the company or the worker can end the employer/employee relationship at any time, for any reason, even a bad reason, just not an illegal reason."

Unfortunately, most job seekers and employees don't have a complete grip on that paragraph. For example, you can be fired for what you eat, the cologne you wear, the car you drive, your boss doesn't like you!

I can be fired for the type of cologne I wear or car I drive?!? Yes!

For example, you support and build a website for an organization that promotes "cabbage patch doll rights" and work for a company that builds billiard tables. Your boss finds out about your site and tells you to stop supporting this organization or you lose your job. You say the site and organization have nothing to do with billiard tables and you refuse to stop.

Your employer terminates you. You sue the company in court and lose! Why? Because of that last phrase in the definition of at will which reads, "just not an illegal reason". Most likely your company's lawyers argued that you were an "at will" employee, who could be terminated at any time for any reason, even a bad reason, JUST NOT AN ILLEGAL REASON.

Since "cabbage patch dolls" is not a protected class, the termination is not "illegal". That sounds crazy and unfair doesn't it? Unfortunately, "At Will" employment is not fair and isn't intended to be. The only question that will matter to a court is "Was the reason you were fired illegal?" Unless you have an employment contract that specifically states you can only be fired for "good cause", you are mostly likely an "At will" employee.

To learn more about "At Will" employment and how it can affect you click this link;


The Next Issue of Basic Employee Rights eNews!

Learn your employer's negative documentation tricks! Pt. 2



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Your Basic Employee Rights eNews is published the first week of the month, 12 weeks per year. From time to time we will publish special features that affect employees in the workplace.



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Written by Yancey Thomas Jr.


(c)copyright 2009


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