In our last blog post on improving your workplace documentation practices, we discussed best practices for effective documentation. This post addresses when to prepare documentation of a workplace event, observation or communication.

To be effective, documentation needs to be accurate, objective, specific, and clear. But, it also needs to be TIMELY! In this fast paced work world, you always want to have current information available. We also know that memories fade as time passes. If you document early, you are more likely to be accurate and complete. Judges and juries generally perceive contemporaneous documentation to be more reliable than documents prepared days after an event occurred. For these reasons and others, we encourage our employer clients to adopt the mantra, “Do not delay; record it today.”

If time has passed without documentation, resist the urge to backdate a document. Backdating is never a good idea, and back dating some forms may even be a criminal offense.

All is not lost if you forgot to prepare documentation in a timely manner. Late is generally better than not at all. If appropriate, consider writing an “as you know memo” to document past activity, such as the following notation to an employee’s personnel file:

As you know, I previously warned you about the need to arrive at work by the start of business at 8:15 a.m. Today you did not clock in until 9:15 a.m. . . . “

The “as you know memo” documents a past event in the context of a current event.

Consult your counsel if you have questions about workplace documentation.

Next post in this workplace documentation practices series: Where to put the workplace documentation? It depends.