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The importance of consistency in employee documentation

The personnel policies of many New Jersey employers are often spread across several documents, and this can lead to legal and administrative problems when the language is not consistent. Employee manuals, employment contracts and confidentiality agreements may be updated or amended from time to time, and it is important that all of these documents are reviewed for possible contradictions when such changes are made.

Communication is the key to maintaining consistency in personnel documentation, and it is important for human resources personnel to inform the company's attorneys or legal department when changes are made. Failure to do this can lead to employment contracts or nondisclosure agreements becoming unenforceable in court. Claims of wrongful termination may also be filed by employees who are fired for violating a personnel policy that was listed in company manuals issued to them but not specified in the contract they signed.

Inconsistent language in personnel documentation can also lead to misunderstandings and legal disputes. The procedures for filing a harassment complaint or reporting inappropriate behavior should not vary between documents, and employees should be under no misunderstanding about what is expected of them. It is also advisable that such reports be memorialized to keep a clear record of the chain of events.

Litigation over workplace discrimination or harassment can do great damage to the reputation of a business, but these disputes can sometimes be avoided. Maintaining consistent personnel documentation and enforcing violations in a balanced way may reduce misunderstandings and contribute to a more harmonious workplace, and an attorney with experience in this area could review employment contracts, policy manuals and nondisclosure or noncompete agreements to identify areas that require attention.

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