Massachusetts is cuckoo, but I still love the Red Sox

Note: This article has nothing to do with the Red Sox. Nothing at all. Just Massachusetts. And Massachusetts employment law at that. It’s ok, though. Still worth a read IMHO. Good advice for my PA, NJ, and DE readers.

I was checking out Gruntled Employees — get it? “gruntled” … as in the opposite of disgruntled … yeah, anyway — and I came across a a new law requiring companies to notify employees about any potentially negative information added to their personnel files.

Hear me out. I’m on a roll with this…after the jump.

My first reaction — and pardon me as I get all legalese and technical on you — WTF?!?! But, then I thought about it for a while. Under the law, an employer must notify an employee if it is going to add something potentially negative to the employee’s file. So what?

As an employment attorney, I’m constantly encouraging clients to document potentially negative employee behavior. That way, if the behavior continues and the employee is terminated, the employer has a papered, well-documented file if the employee later sues. That’s a good thing.

Consider this:

Johnny has developed a nasty recent habit of showing up late to work. His manager has taken notice. Johnny is given a written warning that continued lateness will result in termination of
employment. Employer tells Johnny that a copy of the written warning
will go into his file.

Under the old law in Massachusetts,
would a good employer — one of my clients — have done anything
differently? No way. Johnny is late. Johnny is written up. Under the new law, so what if you have to tell Johnny about the write-up? You’re
giving him a copy of the written warning. He’ll probably assume it’s
going in his file anyway.

Concerned about how this may affect employee morale? Blame Massachusetts.

(After all, this is a bad law).

Tell your employees about the new law, tell them your hands are tied, and
encourage them to keep their noses clean. And if you have to write
someone up, use it as an opportunity to help the employee. Be a
counselor. Help the employee see what he/she did wrong and show the
employee how to do right. Odds are, you’ll be nipping a small problem in the bud before it snowballs. Turn lemons into lemonade. Tell them the
sun will come out tomorrow. And all that jazz.

(This is a blog — MY blog — I can be as folksy and colloquial as I damn well please)

“Doing What’s Right – Not Just What’s Legal”
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