The Smarter Startup

Employee Documentation: Tips & Examples to Save Your Startup Money

Employee documentation can help your company raise that next round of funding and mitigate any allegations of unfair employment practices.

If you have worked with a proactive HR team, then you’re probably very familiar with phrases like “document, document, document!”. Does documentation actually make a difference? And what should be documented?

Employee documentation is incredibly important. It can help your company raise that next round of funding and mitigate any allegations of unfair employment practices. In this article we will provide an overview of critical types of documentation, when to create them, and how.

Critical Employment Documents

Documentation should follow an employee from their initial employment application to their termination. During a due diligence, these will be on the HR checklist to produce.

Documents that the employee provides:

  • Resume application, self-identification form
  • I-9 verification
  • Medical leave notes
  • Receipt and acknowledgement of Handbook

Documentation produced by the company:

  • Co-signed offer letters
  • Co-signed CIIAs/ PIIAs
  • Co-signed stock grants
  • Promotion or Pay increase notice
  • Accrued time off

How Documentation Will Save You Money

Minimize Time Off Abuse

Time Off policies are an example of where it pays to be specific (and one that has gotten companies in hot water otherwise.)

Flexible time off policies often lack parameters and when it is/isn’t appropriate to take time off. A company that either doesn’t have a documented policy, or has a policy that isn’t specific runs the risk of employees abusing the policy and using it in cases where they shouldn’t.

This is most frequently problematic when an employee should be on short term disability leave. Instead of insurance paying them for the employee’s leave of absence, the company becomes responsible for the employee’s wages because their policy didn’t specify when an employee becomes qualified for short-term disability.

Avoid Unemployment Claims and Lawsuits

Documentation should also be used whenever an employee relations incident occurs, and especially during an investigation. It should be stored in a secure and confidential location.

Documentation is especially important in situations where evidence is key, such as sexual harassment and discrimination claims, unemployment claims and other employee relations related lawsuits. Documentation provides specific examples of actions taken, what steps were initiated and the outcome.

Terminating an employee when you have evidence such as slack messages, emails, and other written warnings is a lot easier to justify than a termination with no evidence other than verbal warnings. It minimizes surprise between the company and the employee and provides an opportunity for amical departure.

Documentation can also save you from a lawsuit, or help in the case of an EEOC claim. If an employee in a protected class gets fired for cause, it is essential that you are able to provide evidence as to why the employee was terminated, or they may have a valid claim of discrimination.

Behavior & Performance Issues to Document

When an employee is demonstrating undesirable behavior, it is important to give feedback shortly after it has happened. Start with verbal coaching if the action is not egregious and document the date you had the conversation, what was discussed, and the expectation that was set. If the undesired behavior continues, send written communication to the employee to follow up your talk.

When documenting problematic employee behavior, it is important to record only facts, remain objective in your statements, and do it shortly after the incident has occurred.

Undesirable Behavior to Document

To illustrate, instead of saying “Joe you are disrespectful in the workplace” provide specifics “Joe your communication with others is problematic and it is directly impacting members on your team. On July 15 you posted several slacks on a team channel to vent your frustrations and blame others. Your communication came across as aggressive. This type of communication does not align with our company values and is unacceptable. Our team culture is based on respect and trust. It is ok for you to express your frustration but it should be voiced in a respectful and no-blame manner.”.

This type of reprimand ensures the employee understands what they did wrong and what is expected of them in the workplace.

Common Undesirable Behavior Issues to Document:

  • Gossiping
  • Display of Insolence
  • Bullying
  • Insubordination

Undesirable Performance to Document

To illustrate, instead of saying “Joe you are frequently late to work” provide specifics “Joe your attendance is problematic and it is directly impacting the team and our customers who rely on you for tech support. You were 15 minutes late on July 1st; 30 minutes late from your lunch break on July 3rd; and 20 minutes tardy to a team meeting on July 10th. You are expected to be on time to work and meetings during your core working hours ”. Again, the intent is to describe the unacceptable performance so the employee understands what they did wrong and what is expected of them in the workplace.

Common Undesirable Behavior Issues to Document:

  • Absence or lateness
  • Missed deadlines
  • Incomplete work
  • Poor work quality


How Burkland Can Help

Not sure if your company is up to par with proper documentation? Burkland’s team of skilled People Partners can help! We’ve conducted many audits of employee documents, and are knowledgeable on what is needed in order to best be protected from litigation and to remain in compliance. Contact us for more information.