Monday, July 16, 2007

Leave and Workplace Harassment

If you are filing a grievance against your employer (and just as a general rule of thumb) you should always maintain copies of your timesheets. Even if you record your hours on an electronic timesheet, you should print your timesheets and place them in a file folder for safe keeping. If you have filed a grievance, you definitely want to keep a copy of your timesheets for the period of time covered in your complaint.

I’ve worked for an employer that falsified and manufactured timesheets to try to disprove a case against them that was being investigated by a state government agency. The reason this employer was unsuccessful in getting away with their submission of falsified documents was because the employee maintained a copy of all of her timesheets for that period and could show that new timesheets had suddenly “appeared” in her file (with completely different hours recorded). It would have been beyond her capacity to doctor an exact copy of the corporate timesheets, but much easier for her employers to do so. Keep this example in mind, when it comes to your own timesheets.

Keeping your timesheets will prove the amount of leave you used, if any, as a result of stress-related ailments due to harassment, discrimination or other illegal activities committed by your employer. You can use these timesheets to request a restoration of your sick leave used while you were being harassed and tormented at work. Timesheets will also show your general sick and vacation leave used, in case there is some later dispute about your attendance at work.

Keep in mind, when employers are being investigated or questioned, they want to show negative past behavior on your part. Leave is one area for employer’s to attack and is often one of the first targets they will hit. If you are being targeted at work, the torment is designed to cause you to lose your focus, make errors, force you to resign, and to cause any other side effects that will play into your employer's hands. Your employer wants to drive you to drinking and to the verge of a nervous breakdown, but will question your sick leave during these attacks. Your employer will also attack legitimate reasons for being out of the office.

In my case, on the first day of an attack by my supervisor, my supervisor falsely stated that everyone questioned my hours in and out of the office and everyone wondered where I was. She told me, “We want you to come to work.” And, she said it as if I had been out of the office on a routine basis. The only absences I had from the office were pre-approved and involved work-related travel (out of state) and client meetings that took place off site. Yet, my supervisor was declaring that no one knew where I was, what I was working on, and wondered when I got anything done—because I was supposedly chronically out the office.

I have a copy of all my timesheets to prove that this statement was an obvious and intentional lie. But, it didn’t change the fact that my employer gave it the good old fashioned college try in order to justify their unjustified attacks against me. That’s why I am passing this warning on to you. Don’t let your employer have the only copy of your timesheets. It could come back to haunt you.

Finally, you may want to maintain a copy of your previous year’s timesheets as added insurance against manipulation by your employer. If your employer feels the need to create long-term problems with your employment, they may go well into the past to show so-called performance/attendance issues on your part.

Remember, even your legitimate use of sick leave and vacation leave may come under attack from your employer. When requesting advance leave, make sure your time off is approved, forms are signed by the proper authority, coworkers are notified of your schedule, your assignments are covered during your time out of the office, and that you have a copy of your signed and approved leave form in your personal file.

Final thought: If you’re under attack at work, always get a note from your doctor, if you’re out sick.

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