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Trades: The Importance of Formal Employee Documents for Texas Tradesman

During the course of employment, there are many important transactions and events to document. Having formal documentation in place can help provide clarity, protect employers from liability and provide an objective source to refer to if a dispute arises. Some important formal documents to retain include:

Employment Contract

The employment contract sets forth the responsibilities and expectations of the employee. It also sets forth how performance is measured and what happens if these performance measures are not reached. It also establishes how handymen, maintenance workers and other staff members will be compensated for their work.

In some situations, handymen and other staff members may not be employees. Instead, they may be independent contractors. If this is the case, it is important to have an independent contractor agreement in place that explains the contractor’s role and how this is different from an employment relationship.

Employee Handbook

Another important formal employment document is the employee handbook. The employee handbook sets out important information regarding the employment relationship, including employment policies regarding compensation, promotion, demotion, disciplinary measures, termination, discrimination, prohibited activities, misconduct and other important information. The employee handbook usually provides examples of discrimination and explains what an employee can do if he or she believes discrimination is occurring in the workplace.

Employee Records

Employee records should be retained to show a record of disciplinary measures, evaluations, attendance issues and other reports. If litigation arises, these documents can help establish the circumstances that surrounded an event. The employment record regarding waiters, salespeople, handymen and even managers should provide a factual and non-judgmental read. These records should include important instances, including positive affirmations such as giving an employee recognition and negative experiences, such as when disciplinary action is taken against the employee. Employment records should be made contemporaneous with the precipitating events to provide sufficient details and accuracy.

Drug Policy

A drug policy should be in a written form and explained in clear details. It should include discussion of when employees, handymen or independent contractors may be required to test and the type of test that will be given. It should also include the repercussions of not passing the drug test and whether there are any exceptions, such as a person having a prescription or agreeing to a rehabilitation program.

Termination Procedures

Termination procedures should also be carefully spelled out so that employees have a clear understanding of what actions may lead to the loss of their job. Termination policies should be used in a consistent manner in order to avoid any insinuation of discrimination.

Role of Documentation in Legal Proceedings

Documentation of employee behavior and performance may be used to help or hurt an employee in case legal issues arise. For example, documentation that an employee is constantly late to work or has poor performance can refute claims that the employee was terminated for a discriminatory purpose. Likewise, if other employees received the same type of discipline or treatment and do not have the same protected characteristics, this can help strengthen the employer’s position that the adverse decision was made for non-discriminatory purposes. When documentation does not exist, the investigating agency may dig deeper, interview witnesses or take other measures to try to elucidate information to prove the employee’s claim.

Formal documentation is important because it can provide an objective perspective when facts may be in dispute. People may not remember events perfectly, but having documentation can help refresh their memory. Employee documentation can often be used as evidence in a court case, either for or against the employer. It is up to employers and human resources professionals to determine their own fate.