Over the years, I have had a number of clients tell me that they do not document employment issues because they are afraid that their documentation will be used against them. For this reason, they keep as few records as possible. This discussion usually occurs when the client’s case has been damaged by their lack of recordkeeping. Of course, it is always possible that the documentation you keep will be used against you at a later time. However, it is also true that the lack of documentation can also hurt your case. For example, if you do not have documentation, created contemporaneous with the events recorded, you have only your testimony that events occurred as you state. The disgruntled former employee will disagree. Who will be believed? The employer who is often perceived as a soulless deep pocket or the poor victimized employee?
In what kinds of cases can documentation be important? Department of Labor wage and hour reviews and unemployment hearings are two examples. Documentation is particularly important in court cases associated with wrongful discharge, defamation, discrimination, retaliation and other similar employment related claims filed by a former employee.
Most lawyers, myself included, encourage clients to keep better documentation. While consistently documenting files can be time consuming for the small business owner with more urgent business issues on their mind, there are some quick, simple solutions. One thing you can do is to keep e-mails regarding a particular issue in a separate, password protected, electronic folder. You can periodically print the e-mails and file the hard copies. Just be sure to backup your computer system periodically and keep in mind that it is important to keep the information confidential and in a file that can be kept secure from the prying eyes of other nosy employees.
Only you can decide whether you will keep documentation but you should be aware that there are pros and cons to be weighed.