You Seek an Employment-Law Answer: But Are You Asking the Wrong Question?

If you lost your job or were presented with a severance agreement, your mind may be riddled with employment-law related questions.

An example of a very common question: How do I request my personnel file?

What if I told you that most of the time workers ask themselves this question, it is the wrong question to be asking? That is,workers seeking an answer to this question– or seeking an employee file– are often taking the wrong steps and more often than not won’t help themselves.

There are several factors that often make requesting a personnel file a bad or unhelpful endeavor.

First, a personnel file is usually not useful for any personal or career purpose after a job has ended.

The file may be helpful if the employee later pursues a dispute or legal claim. But employers know this as well.  So employers often interpret a personnel file request as a signal the requesting employees want to sue the employers. Is this a message that you want to send? That you want to send now? If you just lost your job and have yet to receive unemployment benefits, you may not want to rile up the employer when they are in a position to contest unemployment. And if you are in fact planning legal action, you may not want to signal that to the employer at an early stage. An attorney may advise you to wait and request personnel documents later, perhaps during litigation, so the employer is not tipped off.

These issues and others rarely occur to fired workers seeking answers about personnel file requests.  But such issues are, in fact, usually more important than the common question about how to request a personnel file. (Incidentally, the answer is here).

The personnel-file request question is just one of many common questions workers ask that are often wrong questions to ask.

Before you get dead-set on pursuing a particular legal question or course of action, consider the possibility you may be asking the wrong question or going down the wrong path. Consider researching more legal information or speaking with an attorney if the issue is important or valuable enough to ensure you’re on the right path.

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