Employment Law

Keep A Record Of What’s “On The Record” – The Retention of Workplace Documents

Retaining Workplace Documents

Aside from a termination letter and/or severance offer, in order to best assess the legal entitlements of employees, it always helps to have relevant workplace documents on hand. Despite this, it is not uncommon for employees to lose or even throw away important employment-related documents. While a lack of relevant workplace documents may not make it impossible to enforce an employee’s legal entitlements, it can make things more difficult. What follows is a brief outline of some common employment-related workplace documents and their importance in a wrongful dismissal action.

What Documents Should You Keep?

Contract of Employment: Documents that are signed by the employee and outline the basic conditions of employment, which form the “contract of employment” are extremely important in any legal action. Such documents, by outlining duties, salary, benefits, working conditions, and termination entitlements, can help indicate whether an employee has a viable case against their employer. Such documents take many forms, be it a formal “contract”, a simply written job offer or even a signed policy manual. If no such documents exist, the common law and relevant employment legislation can and do fill in to determine employment conditions and termination entitlements. If any such documents do exist, great weight will be placed by courts on terms of employment that have been reduced to writing and agreed to by the parties (often, as evidenced by the signature of the parties).

Conditions of Employment

Documents an employee may not have signed but nonetheless outline conditions of employment in more detail than a job offer, such as policy manuals, commission schedules, pay stubs, benefit booklets, pension and bonus plans, are also important to retain. As settlements in wrongful dismissal cases are often based on what an employee would have been given had they continued to work for a given amount of time (measured in weeks or months), documents that outline what an employee gets can ultimately determine the make-up of a settlement. In termination for cause or human rights complaint cases, policy manuals can outline the procedures an employer is expected to abide by in such situations, and thus come in handy when employers attempt to play fast and loose with their own rules.

Medical Leave Documents

Under human rights legislation, employees are not to be discriminated against on the basis of a medical condition. As such, if one is terminated because of an absence related to a medical condition, documents that outline the existence of a genuine medical condition are vital to proving one’s case. Such documents retain a record of why an employee cannot remain in the workplace, the employer’s response to the situation, as well as the conditions under which the employee will return to the workplace.

Workplace Correspondence

In the case of workplace harassment, documents that can help establish who said or did what, and when, can often make or break a case. Workplace e-mails, logs, or even handwritten notes made at the time can add weight in what often remain “he said she said” situations.

Discipline/Accolades Documentation

Any documents related to workplace discipline, such as warning letters, work improvement plans, performance assessments, and work logs, are extremely important in cases where an employee is terminated for cause in Ontario. Such documents help to outline problems perceived by the employer in the workplace, and an employee’s responses to such situations. Also, employers can and do try to use such documents to establish that employees were guilty of serious misconduct or repeated performance concerns, so as to avoid having to compensate an employee in the event of a termination. Conversely, awards or certificates of recognition can help to counter disciplinary documents by establishing that an employee excelled within the workplace. In either case, if an employer generates such documentation, an employee would do well to obtain a copy.

In short, employees would do well to retain whatever employment-related documents they can, and should try to obtain copies of documents that relate to them, if possible. A lawyer can best carry forward one’s case when they have access to all relevant information, which is often contained in documents like those outlined above. With all relevant information, an employment lawyer in Ontario or B.C. will be well equipped to make an assessment not only an employee’s legal entitlements but also the barriers that may exist to enforcing them.

Don’t hesitate to contact our firm for answers to questions about the above areas of concern. Our employment lawyers in Toronto, Vancouver employment lawyers and Ottawa employment lawyers will be able to assist you.

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