Employee Files

Before I was a business attorney Tulsa, I once worked at a business where they did annual reviews to discuss with you your progress, any concerns you had, and whatnot. These reviews took place on a Saturday and you had an approximate half-hour slot. Keep in mind these reviews were only for the Associate Attorneys. The Associates would meet with all four of the equity partners (sometimes a non-equity partner would sit in on the review). I honestly think this was a good idea. While I did not necessarily love the idea of going to the office on a Saturday, it was a nice opportunity to get feedback from management on your progress, specifically identify any issues you need to focus on, and have an opportunity to meaningfully voice any concerns you had. The Saturday setting also precluded daily interruptions such as phone calls, e-mails, and the like.

My one critique of this approach is the review was primarily based on their memories. There were no employee files that I ever saw. This could be a problem because these partners had a lot on their plates. They had to run a law firm, address client concerns, handle all the administrative tasks of owning a business, and practice law themselves. Their minds were, at a minimum, stretched.
Despite not having any written employee files that I ever saw, I was impressed with their specific recall as it related to me. But imagine how much easier it could have been had they maintained well-documented employee files.

Does your business keep a file on every employee? If so, great! If not, why? Maybe you do not think you need one. Or maybe you think that in today’s digital age, nobody cares about a paper employee file. I as a business attorney Tulsa challenge you to think differently.

Every litigation attorney has a stock set of initial written discovery requests that he/she sends to the opposing party that contain general interrogatories, requests for production of documents, and (usually) requests for admission. In the requests for production of documents, my stock set always asked for an employee file if the case involved someone who was working at the time. I as their business attorney Tulsa almost always got some type of response to this request. Admittedly, the documents I received varied considerably. If the documents were on the low side, I usually sent what is called a corporate representative notice to the other side to identify a person who discuss the documents maintained on each employee.

What are the advantages of maintaining a well-document employee file? There are so many that this business attorney Tulsa is very passionate about.

First, a well-documented employee file helps address any concerns by the employee. If you document offenses that could lead to termination where the employee signs the reprimand, then when you reach the number of offenses constituting a firing you can show the employee the evidence in the employee’s file. Now granted, the employee will still most likely be upset. But in the event of litigation, your counsel can point to the handbook and the employee file containing all documented offenses. This will put you in a much more defensible position.

Second, a well-documented employee file aids with employee reviews. Some businesses choose a formal review like that described above. Others do more informal reviews throughout the year. Some businesses do not conduct reviews at all. Hopefully, you perform some type of review. If you do, the chances are you cannot remember every great contribution and grave offense of all your employees. Who would expect you to remember such a thing?! This is where a well-documented employee file can come into play. If you have different colored sheets of paper for reprimands and accomplishments, you can discuss those with the employee during his/her review.

Third, a well-documented employee file can assist you and your business attorney Tulsa if the employee seeks additional compensation. At some point, as a small business owner, someone will ask you for a raise ahead of the whatever compensation schedule is in place. This could occur for any number of reasons. Like in The Office, Darryl asked Michael for a raise when the two branches of Dunder-Mifflin merged. Darryl argued they increased their output and one of his employees was fired translating into Darryl taking on more responsibility. Michael responds in typical Michael fashion. He consults Wikipedia on negotiation tactics and we all laughed. Darryl then convinces Michael to ask for a raise so he has to ask his then girlfriend Jan for a raise. The whole show was a debacle.

But what do you as a business owner do when this happens? First consult your business attorney Tulsa then set an appointment with the employee to meet privately. Have a member of HR present. Have the employee file with you so you can see everything: absences, tardy arrivals, reprimands, successes, and anything else in the file. You can then discuss with the employee whether a raise ahead of schedule is justified. The more objective you can be in your analysis, the better it will be for everyone.

Fourth, a well-prevented employee file can prevent a corporate representative deposition. Like I mentioned above, one of my standards requests as a business attorney Tulsa for production in my first set of discovery that I sent along with the Summons and Petition when I served the Defendant was a request for the employee file. If the documents I received in response were not up to par, I issued a corporate representative notice. This means you would have to leave your business and be deposed, causing a substantial interruption to your day.

If you do not maintain employee files, start today. Take this business attorney Tulsa word for it that it will save you some considerable time and headache later. Here is what I would contain at a minimum in every employee file:

  • Initial Application
  • Acknowledgement Form for Employee Handbook
  • Social Security Card
  • Copy of Driver’s License (or state issued ID)
  • Copies of attendance at all safety meetings
  • Any information regarding unexplained absences
  • A list of vacation/sick days taken
  • Reprimands
  • Accomplishments
  • Any information related to any workplace investigation into misconduct
  • Any information found on social media about the employee making questionable posts
  • Copies of any required safety certificates
  • A copy of the executed relationship disclosure (where applicable)
  • Information regarding the employee’s benefits
  • A copy of any executed addendum acknowledgments to the employee handbook (where applicable)


A good general rule to follow even as a business attorney Tulsa, is this. When in doubt, put it in the file. It cannot hurt you later, but not having it in the file could hurt you.

If you would like a review of an employee file to see if your record-keeping procedures are sufficient, please do not hesitate to contact me. Remember, the initial consultation with this business attorney Tulsa is free.