Archive for the ‘Personal’ category

Let me check my files and get back to you…

July 21st, 2010

Good recordkeeping is a cornerstone of good business, and most business managers know that.  And, because Human Resource Management (formerly known as Personnel, back when employees were people, not mere human resources) is one of the areas of management that poses the most challenges and some of the greatest risks, most managers keep good personnel records.

Good Personnel Records

Good personnel records start before hiring, and track the employer/employee (or contractor) relationship to its termination and beyond.  A thorough personnel file will document:

  • When and why the employee was hired;
  • When and why the employee was promoted (or demoted or transferred);
  • When the employee was reviewed for performance, who did it, and the outcome;
  • When the employee was disciplined (and whether the problem that led to the discipline was resolved);
  • Any special requests the employee made, from routine vacation, sick days, or exception time, to medical leave, FMLA leave, leaves of absence, etc.; and
  • When an employee was terminated, why, and on what terms (Free to reapply?  References allowed?)

A thorough record is important for several reasons.  Among these is the fact the managers and supervisors may change over the life of the business, and these records allow new managers to come up-to-speed on employees and their performance issues, work and promition histories, and so forth.  Institutional memory should never rely entirely on personal memory.

Good Personal Records

When you consider why your boss is keeping these records, you will realize why it could be very useful for you to keep your own records.  Why do you suppose that is?  Part of the purpose is general recordkeeping, that is, the personnel side of accounting:  How much time have you taken off?  Have you used any special leave?  Did you receive and sign for an employee handbook?

Generally, however, the most important legal reason for keeping this file is to build a case to support a termination, or to defend any allegations you might make of harassment, discrimination, or other wrongful termination.  If any of these situations should arise, it is VERY helpful to have copies of these things!

When an employee has extensive documentation of problems at work, employers sometimes insinuate that the employee was “looking for trouble.”  However, by that same logic, an employee could argue that an employer who keeps a personnel file was “gunning for you” from the beginning.

Your right to access your employment records or personnel file will vary from state to state, and company to company.  Thus, keeping your own copy of your personnel file – at least the parts that you are aware of – is just good recordkeeping, as you may need that information later, and your work file may be incomplete, lost in an office move, etc.  Sure, you don’t have huge file storage space for keeping these things.  You don’t need it.  Disk space is very inexpensive these days, and a scanned copy of these documents is just as good as the original.  Your recordkeeping should be as thorough as your employer’s.  You should save a copy of:

  • Job postings / classified ads you responded to;
  • Resumes you submitted;
  • Contracts, offer letters, employment agreements, waivers, etc.;
  • Employee handbooks;
  • Policy memos, or other policy handouts;
  • Evaluations or performance improvement plans (especially documents showing you have satisfied the requirements of the plan);
  • ALL disciplinary documents and correspondence;
  • All official correspondence to and from the company (this includes e-mail you send and receive regarding policy, personnel issues such as vacation requests, etc., but does NOT include internal correspondence about business operations, clients, etc.);
  • Time sheets, if you keep time manually;
  • Pay stubs or payment advice (especially if it includes vacation balances, pension contributions, etc.);
  • Grievances, complaints, suggestions, or proposals (for contractors);
  • Incident or accident reports, doctors’ notes, excused absences, etc.; and
  • Anything you sign (simply ask for a copy for your files if one isn’t handed to you).

If you don’t know your company’s policy on access to your personnel file, and it’s not in the company policy handbook, you should feel free to ask.

In addition to having your own important defensive information if you should find yourself in the unfortunate situation of being harassed or forced out, you may find that these records also provide a lot of valuable life planning information:  How is your pension growing?  When were you last promoted?  When was your last raise?  Have you been compensated for all of your performance objectives?  These are just a few examples of the information that’s in your file – and should be in YOUR file.

Coming soon:  Running Your Life Like a Business.

“I Know What You Did Last Summer.”

June 29th, 2010

If you know where that line comes from, you can probably relate to the frisson that someone feels upon learning that someone has been watching or monitoring them without their knowledge.  In the 80’s, the band Rockwell sang, “I always feel like somebody’s watching me.”  In a word, it’s creepy.

Stalking Is a Crime

Actual stalking is very serious, and is considered a breach of the peace.  North Carolina’s stalking law is G.S. 14-277.3A.  (Cyberstalking is a separate offense, but cyberstalking “adds to” any stalking charges.)

It is important to understand that stalking is behavior that goes beyond “annoying.”  When someone is annoying, you ask them to stop doing what annoys you.  If they do not, you ask them to cease contacting you, preferably in writing, so you have a record.  Keep in mind that the contact must be for “no legitimate purpose,” so “stalking” does not include your ex calling you about visitation or child support (those are legitimate purposes); refusing contact when there is a legitimate reason has risks.

Stalking requires that the person makes two or more acts AFTER knowing that you do not want contact.

Whenever someone starts to behave in a way that suggests stalking, keep a log or journal, and keep copies of the communication; this is evidence the District Attorney would need to prosecute the charge.  When you give notice that the contact is unwelcome, take every reasonable effort to block contact (“unfriend” them on social sites, etc.)  Changing your phone number is NOT a reasonable expectation because it is very disruptive; you should be able to deal with the problem BEFORE it becomes that bad.

Do NOT Aggravate the Problem

It is also VERY IMPORTANT that you 1) DO NOT RESPOND; 2) DO NOT send messages, warnings, or threats directly or through a third-person, unless it’s an attorney or a peace officer; and 3) DO NOT start a “campaign” against them with third-parties.  (If you are not careful, you could set yourself up for counterclaims of Libel, Slander, Communicating Threats, or even Assault.)

If the behavior persists, you should 1) contact the police, 2) file a complaint with the magistrate, or 3) contact an attorney.

There is no need to live in fear or apprehension.