Even if you don't have a problem at work, it can help to keep track of work information, make notes, and have copies of notes to your boss.
For example, a diary, with regular notes as events happen, will often be accepted as evidence in court. A notebook where you write when you start and stop work every day and your paystubs can be enough to prove that you were not paid for all your work hours.
Records can help in many situations - from unemployment hearings to lawsuits, filing discrimination complaints to workers' compensation. If your former boss gives you a bad recommendation, you will be able to bring letters of commendation, awards for attendance, and performance reviews to an interview for a new job. Sometimes, it just helps when you meet with your boss and can show the records you've been keeping.
Keep all the paper that your boss gives you when you are hired, that you get in your paychecks, and that show your performance and attendance. Write on each document who gave it to you and when.
Keep all your work papers at home. Keep everything together in one place. At work, your desk, locker, or computer may be searched. If you lose your job, you may not be able to get papers that are at work.
Make notes quickly - you will forget details over time. Keep important papers and communication. Write on each document when you got it and how. If you're not sure if it's important, keep it. Write down who saw the accident, heard the boss threaten you, or was standing next to you when the foreman approved your vacation.
Ask witnesses for statements. They may be willing to write down and sign what they saw right away but later on the boss may tell them not to. Even if an eyewitness won't write a statement for you, make sure to note what s/he saw and heard. Get the witnesses' phone numbers and addresses - incase they, or you, quit.
Find out if other workers have the same problem or are treated the same way. It can be really important to show that your boss refused to let other women train to drive the forklift, changed other workers' time cards, or ordered other workers to work without safety equipment. Get statements and talk to other workers about how you can protect your rights together.
Be objective and truthful. Don't say why people did or said something. Report the facts clearly. Don't make up anything. Don’t eliminate anything because you're embarrassed or because you think it would weaken your case.
Don't stop. Often, situations at work go in cycles, getting better and then worse. Add your file even if it seems like the problem is over. (It's tempting to throw away your notes when the racist foreman is reassigned but he may be back in your department two years later or you may find out that the workers in his new area need your information to prove their case.)
Make a timeline (a chronology). When you need to present your information, a timeline of when important events happened will help you present your case. It will also help you make sure that you have all the information and documents that you need.
Review your personnel file. Even if you don't have problems at work, it's good to look at your personnel file occasionally. It doesn't take long. Get copies or take notes on any documents you don’t have.
Know what documents you can have and if you can tape record. Some documents may legally "belong" to your employer, even if they are about you. For example, many hospitals have policies that workers cannot copy the hospital’s Incident Report form - even one they filled out. You may not be allowed to copy documents which have confidential information about your company or somebody else. Instead, you might take a lot of notes about the document. Don't admit that you have a document until you're sure that you are allowed to have it. Find out your state's law before taping or admitting you made a recording. It may not be legal to record a conversation without the other person agreeing.
Don't access confidential or unauthorized areas on the company computer or files. Instead of proving your original case, you could give them ammunition to use against you.
Keep track of your hours and pay. In the Resource Box is a simple form to keep track of your hours and pay. Developed for day laborers, it is especially good for workers who have different bosses or who are paid cash.