If an employer asks me to
complete an external investigation of serious misconduct or a complaint of
discrimination and/or harassment I begin with a set of general questions before
I conduct any interviews. I always ask,
“Do you think the employee is taking notes?”
we called an employee who came in to file a claim armed with a stack of
handwritten papers a notebook case. This
person was taking notes in preparation for making a formal complaint or in
anticipation of trouble with their boss.
Today’s notebook cases have handwritten notes in addition to copies of
emails, performance evaluations and various memos and employer notices.
employee is taking notes should be cause for concern. This is an employee who may be building their own
file or case against an employer. They
may start taking notes and saving documentation on their own because they don’t
like the way someone is treating them, or they’re having trouble with job
performance. It’s more likely that this
note taker and saver is advised to amass this information by a friend or family
member who has been down this road or an attorney. This attorney is likely to be a friend of a
relative or neighbor whose practice has nothing to do with employment law.
to go to an external agency they present what appear to be complete details of
an employer’s wrongdoing. Of course the
agency is only getting half the story but an organized, articulate employee can
be very persuasive to an investigator.
from taking their own notes or keeping copies of documents that they have
routine access to. You can make certain
that your managers are trained to eliminate improper references and comments in
emails, memos and performance evaluations.
As soon as you realize that an employee is taking notes or building
their own file it’s time for a reminder of the importance of clear factual
bring a complaint to an external agency.
Just in case they do you don’t want to give them information and
documents to add to a file that becomes the basis for a potentially negative outcome.