How to Collect Evidence of Employer Misconduct Before You Quit

An employee who plans to quit employment because of company misconduct -- whether it is retaliation, discrimination, harassment or other illegal activity -- is in a much better position to collect evidence of the behavior while he is still employed and has access to company records, documents and potential witnesses. Although it can be difficult to stay, doing so -- and gathering the evidence to support your assertions -- provides the best chance of building a solid case against the organization.

Keep a diary of events. Note the relevant dates of each incident, what happened and who was involved. List the names of any witnesses to the incident. Keeping a journal is a good way to establish a timeline of events. Even if you cannot obtain physical or written documentation of issues, an investigator may be able to subpoena those records later and corroborate your timeline to establish correlation and causation. For example, if you note the exact date and time a harassing person prevented you from leaving the building, an investigator -- or your attorney -- can later order the surveillance tapes to prove your case.

Gather employer policies and procedures pertaining to the misconduct you observe. Collect other documentation to indicate that the employer did not follow its own policies. For example, obtain a copy of the policy that states all incidents of sexual harassment will be investigated, and record the voice mail response to your complaint, where you are told that no action will be taken and to stop being so sensitive.

Review all your records -- such as emails, memos, correspondence and even sticky notes -- and make copies of anything related to the misconduct. Make copies of company records -- for example, posters with illegal provisions displayed on bulletin boards -- or items publicly posted by coworkers, such as inappropriate pin-ups or calendars. If the offensive item was posted by a co-worker to a public board, the item itself can be removed and kept as evidence -- and you can also record any reactions to your removal of the item.

Obtain a copy of your personnel file, or record the company's refusal of your request. Ask for a copy of your supervisor file as well, although be aware that in most cases the employer is not obligated to allow you to view it.

Keep a running list of the witnesses to each event. If possible, get signed sworn statements from each witness before you quit, and ask for copies of any records or documentation each witness has of the incidents. Collect all possible documentation before you speak to the witnesses, however, because someone might tip off the company about what you are doing.

Tips

  • Gather the appropriate evidence before you make accusations. When you do complain to human resources or a senior manager, put your complaint in writing and save it as evidence. Similarly, save the company responses and record the dates, names and content of verbal responses in a diary.

Warnings

  • Don't store your journal, typed evidence or email inquiries to other workers on the company computer; otherwise, the employer will have access to all your documentation. Don't conduct inquiries or document your own case on company time, or else the employer will have evidence of your own misconduct.

References

About the Author

For more than a decade, Tia Benjamin has been writing organizational policies, procedures and management training programs. A C-level executive, she has more than 15 years experience in human resources and management. Benjamin obtained a Bachelor of Science in social psychology from the University of Kent, England, as well as a Master of Business Administration from San Diego State University.