What do you remember about your first day at a new job? Most recall all the new faces, their new surroundings, the excitement, but for some, all the paperwork they had to sort through and sign leaves a nagging imprint.
Do you remember signing away your right to file a lawsuit against your employer? Do you recall the moment that your right to have a jury of your peers to decide if you were wronged just disappeared? That is what an arbitration agreement does! Believe me when I tell you, you likely signed one of these on your very first day and you probably didn’t even realize it.
If you are curious whether the company you worked for placed one of these “agreements” inside the multitude of papers they threw at you on day one, it is easy to find out. All you have to do is just email your Human Resources point of contact and request your personnel file. If you signed an arbitration agreement, it will be stuffed somewhere in the hundred-plus, if not thousand-page long file your company has been keeping on you. Upon your request, which should be in writing for record-keeping sake, your company is now on the clock. They are legally obligated to provide you with your personnel file no later than 30 days after you request it.
Every company keeps a Personnel File on each and every employee. They start building this on Day One.
Once you have received your personnel file, take a look inside. Take it home, review it, make sure there are no write-ups that you weren’t aware of. Do an audit. This is the diary your work keeps on you. Everything relevant to your employment should be in there: your write-ups (if you have any), your evaluations, your performance reviews, any performance improvement plans (PIPs), any training you have completed, and any documents you have signed. They all should be in there. Make sure your personnel file is complete and accurate.
Use an Employment Lawyer & Labor Lawyer’s Experience to Prevent Headache
If you are like most Americans, your job is your livelihood. If you are fired wrongfully or are forced to quit: Your personnel file becomes Exhibit Number ONE!
That is why the very first thing we do at Mesriani Law Group is retrieve our new client’s personnel file for them. The next thing we do is ask our client to review it. The third thing that usually happens is a phone call from our client utterly aghast at the documentation their company had on them. Many, many personnel files contain write-ups that our clients had no clue existed. Many contain documentation of lateness, sickness, or “poor” job performances they have never been confronted with. To the wonderment of many, it is the internal policy of some companies to take verbal conversations between you and your supervisor about your work and document that as a write-up. They do this so that when you call a firm like ours to represent you, they are able to come back and point to every little thing you did as evidence you aren’t the great employee you actually were; they document every day you showed up 2 minutes late, every lunch break you didn’t make it back in time for; every deadline you missed by a hair.
I have lost count of how many times a new client is floored by what is inside their own personnel file. That is why it is important to ensure it is accurate NOW. This is too critical to leave to chance.
What an Employment Lawyer Says Should Be in Your Personnel File
New Job Roles / Updated Job Descriptions
Have you have been promoted, demoted, or even accepted a lateral position since your hire? Your new job description should be inside your file. Have you stayed at the same position yet taken on greater, or even different responsibilities? You need to insist that an updated job description is in your personnel file. Companies will often increase their workers responsibilities but not document it, and most importantly not compensate you for it. Sometimes a new position, new task, or new responsibility requires new training. If you haven’t received this training, the company may be putting you at a safety risk, violating HIPPA, ignoring workplace restrictions, or just trying to save on costs. They might even be trying to set you up to fail.
Have you been experiencing back pain, neck pain? Have you emailed your boss or HR requesting accommodations like a stand-up desk or an ergonomic keyboard? Those emails should be in your personnel file. It is imperative to document all your requests for accommodations. Make your personnel file work both ways. You now know that all the “negative” stuff you’ve done will be in there, lets ensure all good stuff is as well. Take a screenshot and print them out. Put them in a folder at home. Save them for a rainy day. If that day comes, you will wish you had. The company is keeping a paper-trail to use against you if necessary – and you should too.
You’re still working there right? You must be doing something right! Make sure those positive performance evaluations are documented and in your file. Make sure every Employee of the Month award you’ve ever received is in there. Keep those positive emails from your boss congratulating you on a job well done, a project you saved, a time you went above and beyond. Just because everything is great now doesn’t mean things won’t change the very next day after you engage in a protected activity.
If you are working in the greater Los Angeles are, you are in the jurisdiction of the labor and employment lawyers at Mesriani Law Group. By the time our phone rings it is too late to follow these instructions. If I could go back and tell you one thing, it would be to read this article and act on it. During the times of COVID-19, you have the time to ensure your job is secure. If the day ever comes where you have to call on us to represent you, you will wish you had.