If you have worked in HR or management for more than a few days you are sure to have heard several times by now to document and then document and then document. This old employment-law adage remains true today. Maintaining documentation of your employment decisions can be the difference between being able to successfully defend a discrimination claim and losing on that claim. The typical discrimination charge filed with the KHRC/EEOC covers factual events that range anywhere from three months old to several years old. If you are anything like me, remembering where I was at two years ago today is virtually impossible let alone what happened during a three-minute conversation with a co-worker. That's where documentation comes into play.
I want to expand a bit on that concept of documenting to add in the notion that what you are really after is good documentation. Any employment decision made should be supported with documentation reflecting that action. The documentation can be simple notes written by a supervisor or a full-scale form detailing actions taken and the reasons for the action. In most cases, the documentation will be an accurate and true reflection of the events being noted and will be given much more weight two years later than a supervisor or employee's recollection of the events. That's what makes good documentation so important -- it is not subject to revisionist memory since it was created at the time of the event.
One last note: the documentation maintained in an employee's personnel file should tell a consistent story. One key document that can be problematic for employers is the performance appraisal documents. Supervisors sometimes fall victim to grade inflation when conducting evaluations, and those documents then tell a different story than the lengthy discipline history in the file. Performance appraisals are a topic worthy of a longer discussion on another day, but for now, just make sure those documents reflect an accurate assessment of the employee.