Friday, June 27, 2008

Gathering Your Documentation: Incidents to Track

This is an important reminder about the types of information you should track, if you are the victim of racial discrimination, harassment and/or retaliation. This is based on a post from early 2007. I think it’s a great bit of information for any new readers and just something that we should all keep in mind.

Types of information to track

□ A copy of your company’s personnel manual or, at the very least, the applicable sections that are germane to your case. If you are saying that your company violated or ignored its own policies and procedures, having a copy of the actual written polices and procedures will go a long way in helping you to prove your point.

□ A copy of your company’s anti-harassment policy. If you have been harassed, you can use this to show how the company did not effectively adhere to nor implement their written policies on this behavior.

□ A copy of any official documentation that shows a change in your employment status. For instance, if you are forced to relocate to an undesirable location or to a department that is not a match for your job skills (which could be construed as a form of punishment) or if you are demoted, receive a pay cut or are stripped of your supervisory role, be sure to keep a copy of any official documentation, including the supporting documents used against you, for your records and for any complaint that you file against your company. Also keep a copy of your responses (written and verbal) to these employment actions.

□ A copy of your job description.

□ A copy of the job description for the next level of work higher than yours or for the job you wanted to be promoted to. For instance, if you are an Account Executive, you should try to get your hands on a job description for a Senior Account Executive. You can use this job description as a comparison tool by highlighting how you were already doing much or some of the work for the job in which you were denied a promotion.

□ A copy of your offer/hire letter. This will show the terms of employment that you were offered and what was agreed to prior to accepting a job with your employer. You can use this letter to show how your job morphed (immediately or over time) into a position that you did not agree to work in. For instance, I have spoken to African Americans who have complained that they were told they’d be doing one job (including supervising staff), yet when they began work, they were in a job that was somewhat or substantially different than the job they applied for and were promised by their new employer.

□ A copy of your timesheets for the period of time covered in your complaint. I have worked for an employer that falsified and manufactured timesheets to try to disprove a case against them that was being investigated by a state agency. The reason they were unsuccessful in getting away with this was that the complainant 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 and her signature scanned from another document). You may want to maintain a copy of your previous year’s timesheets as added insurance against manipulation by your employer.

□ A copy of your performance reviews. As I always say, your employers want to prove past bad acts on your part. To do this, they may scour your previous performance reviews for any information they can claim shows a pattern of repeat and negative performance or demonstrates that you have a bad attitude. Any comment, no matter how petty, can be twisted into a larger performance problem that you supposedly had. Fabrications can also be added to existing documents and they can be reprinted. Keep copies of your evaluations!

□ A copy of your official leave requests and any documentation that leave was denied, including the basis for denial. Your leave requests can demonstrate time taken due to stress-related ailments or for other medical reasons. Since employers may be likely to attack your time in and out of the office, because your use of leave is an easy target for those who have been abusing your rights, keep a copy of all of your leave requests.

□ A copy of instructions and procedures that relate to your case. If someone is accusing you of incorrectly performing your job or simply not knowing your job, copies of official instructions and procedures can help demonstrate your compliance with the requirements of your job.

□ Memos, emails, and other written correspondence that help prove your case. For instance, false accusations from managers, slanderous emails, being documented for problems caused by others, documentation that serves to show you in a pattern of negative behavior, being told one thing, but another action took place, racially or sexually offensive messages or comments, etc.

□ A copy of new additions to your personnel file. If you’re placed on probation or receive an oral or verbal warning, be sure to keep a copy of this documentation and include any response you prepare in defense of your work performance or character.

□ Promotion charts or announcements. If you are trying to demonstrate disparate treatment and discrimination in the workplace, having a copy of promotion charts or announcements will help illustrate who is receiving promotions at your company and who is being passed over. Many companies will email or post the list of promotions when announcing the good news to the rest of the workforce. Save the email or make a copy of the announcement. If the information is not included, write the grade/level, race, and previous title of each individual, if you have a way of identifying this information.

□ A copy of any “thank you” emails or cards sent to you by supervisors, managers, coworkers, and, more importantly, clients. These days, most people don’t take the time to say thank you. People prefer to complain. The great thing about thank you messages is that they often contain exact quotes about what you did well and, therefore, are not easily refuted by your employers. You should keep a record of any congratulatory messages because they will demonstrate that:

-- you were doing your job and doing it correctly;
-- you work well on a team;
-- you are seen as valuable by team leaders and managers;
-- you work to serve the best interest of your clients; and
-- you did some aspect of your job well enough for someone to take the time to applaud your efforts.

□ A copy of your company’s organizational chart. There may come a time when you need to show the hierarchy in your company as a way to demonstrate the reporting structure and the level of authorities that certain individuals have over supervisors, managers, and other staff.

□ A copy of any charts showing the demographics at your company. If you are attempting to prove racial bias, disparate treatment or discrimination, it would be helpful to have a chart that shows the statistical breakdown of employees. For instance, your company may disseminate a chart that shows each staff person, their grade level, their title, their hire date, etc. This chart can help prove how staff that began employment after you, and were serving in the same or a lower position, were promoted into positions of authority over you or were quickly promoted to the same level as you.

□ A copy of administrative forms that are relevant to your case. This is especially important for whistleblowers who are documenting the inappropriate and illegal behavior of their employers.

□ Voice mail messages. You should be able to discern when a voice message is important. If a voice mail is nasty and offensive, contains racial epithets, sexual innuendo or vulgarities, contradicts other information or correspondence, makes promises that weren’t followed through on, etc., you should keep a record of this voice mail message. Save the message on your work phone and write down, word-for-word, the content of the message (in case it is “accidentally” deleted). Include who the message is from and the date and time it was received. For the ultra-paranoid, tape record the message so you can prove the exact tone in which things were said and the exact content of the message. Play the voice mail message to get people, who can verify/testify that they heard the content of the message. This would not be hearsay because you didn't tell them about the message, they heard it themselves. If you listen to voicemail on the speaker setting, coworkers may overhear the content, especially if someone left a message that included screaming, name-calling, racial epithets and other egregious behavior. These people can confirm the offensive and hostile nature of what you've been forced to endure at the hands of a supervisor, coworker, etc.

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Blogger SjP said...

As always...much obliged! very much obliged! your info is always right on target!

Would be much obliged if you stop by Sojourner's Place for ...might find it interesting...

8:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Until I discover your blog I didn’t know the importance of performance review. I asked for more training in writing. Performance review came & I scored only 2/5. The excuse was because I was still in training mode! I didn’t dispute it because my immediate supervisor (the reviewer) was normally quite supportive of my work. His boss however, ignored my presence the whole two years I have been with the company. My guess is that my boss’ boss retaliated against me because I dare ask for training. I signed & let it go but I now really regret it! I didn’t know any better back then.

3:15 AM  

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