Suggestions for Using Documents to Increase Your Rights
- Get A Written Employment Agreement if At All Possible
There is no substitution for rights guaranteed by a written contract. If a promise is really important to you and your employer really wants to hire you, they should be willing to make the promise part of an enforceable employment agreement.
- Avoid or Renegotiate Documents that Take Away Your Rights
Employees are often asked to agree in writing to non-compete provisions. Employees are also often asked to affirm in writing that he or she is an “at will” employee and that he or she has not received any verbal promises to the contrary from any supervisor. DO NOT AGREE to these provisions unless you are willing to live with them. Often these terms can be negotiated and, at least, qualified or narrowed in scope.
- Always Confirm Important Verbal Promises in Writing.
If your employer’s promise is important and your employer will not put the promise in writing, you should write a confirming letter reciting the promise.
- Remember E-Mail is Evidence
E-mail, although casual communication, is still paper and has POWER. Be careful with your own e-mail communications. Do NOT use your e-mail at work for personal purposes. You can easily create your own bad Magic Secondary Paper with e-mail and other casual written communication if you include inappropriate sexual, personal or aggressive content. If your company wants to terminate you, they sometimes use experts to retrieve incriminating e-mail that you thought had been deleted from the system.
E-mail can also work to help the employee. Be sure to keep e-mail from your employer that relates to your employment performance or that can provide any evidence of promises your employer has made.
- Keep Copies of Favorable Evaluations, Written Compliments and Awards
Do not trust your employer to keep these. Keep your own file and use them if necessary.
- Make Sure Your Complaints of Discrimination or Illegal Activities Are in Writing
This is VERY important if you want legal protection from retaliation and you are interested in leaving the company and negotiating a favorable severance package.
- Avoid Taking or Keeping Unauthorized Documents
Be careful of these documents! If you do not have the right to possess company documents or to retain copies after your termination, taking these documents can constitute a wrong that may justify your termination after the fact. Even if you have been terminated for an illegal reason, you may lose your legal damages remedies.
- Don’t Set Off a Memo War
Don’t respond to criticism with more of the same. Do not respond at all unless it is really important to do so.
- Respond to Unfair Bad Performance Evaluations and Disciplinary Warnings
If you have a REALLY bad performance review or a disciplinary warning that is unfair, you do need to respond. Be objective and non-defensive. Stress the positive aspect of your performance rather than the unfairness of the review or warning. Do not attack your supervisor if possible.
- Watch Your Own Incriminating Communication
Avoid curt, disrespectful, inflammatory, emotional or other unprofessional comments in your written communication at work. Remember, these can come back to haunt you. Do not forget the power of documents.