Dental and Medical Counsel Blog

How Documentation Can Protect Your Practice In and From Labor Disputes

September 20, 2017

From the day you hire your first employee, your practice has effectively opened itself up to potential labor disputes. From discrimination claims to unpaid wage allegations, wronged employees can use a variety of legal protections to protect themselves from unscrupulous employers. But what about unjustified allegations? Unfortunately, they do exist, making it advantageous for business owners to be proactive about protecting their practice from such claims.

The simplest way to avoid employee disputes is not to engage in unlawful behavior, of course. But in terms of protecting yourself from untruthful allegations or misrepresented events, documentation is simply irreplaceable. Keeping a record of occurrences, allegations, outcomes and disciplinary actions can be immeasurably helpful should a dispute arise. To get the most out of your record keeping, you should take steps to ensure that your records have the following attributes:

Contemporaneous – While writing down events after they occur is better than making no records at all, your documentation will be much more helpful if it is created at the time events occur. For example, if an employee is consistently late, it is better to have a notation made each time the behavior is brought to her attention, as opposed to saying, “Was late 4 times in October.” Contemporaneous notes are more accurate than those taken at a later time.

Consistent – Your records will seem suspicious if they were only kept for a certain employee or seemed to be made only in preparation for a labor claim. Therefore, you should keep records for all employees and all instances of the following events: handbook violations; complaints to HR; terminations and other discipline and employee reviews. This list is not exhaustive, and if you are wondering whether something should be written down, it probably should be.

Clear – Again, while some type of documentation is better than none at all, it is best to get in the habit of documenting events clearly and thoroughly. For example, if you terminate an employee due to policy violations, you should document the discussion and include a detailed list of the exact policies which were violated, as well as the actions which constituted a violation, time/date of the occurrence, any witnesses or affected parties, and any action taken in response. The clearer and more complete that you can make these records, the better.

In the case of a legal dispute with an employee (or upon receiving allegations of labor violations from the EEOC, for example), you should contact a qualified attorney as soon as possible. If you have used a dental lawyer or medical counsel for transition work, for example, that attorney could point you in the right direction in order to find a qualified labor attorney. One of the first questions such an attorney is likely to ask is whether you have any documentation relevant to the claims. By keeping contemporaneous records which are also consistent and clear, you will have taken strong steps toward ending a dispute quickly and favorably.

For more information on why documentation with your employees matter, please watch Ali's short video.

Additionally, if you would like to learn more about our services, employment law-related matters, and how we can help you or your dental or medical practice, please contact us below.

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