In The Workplace

Three months after resigning, a former employee e-mailed us requesting the return of the original copy of his university transcript of records. He claims he paid for and owns the document. He says he’s merely lending it to the company to support his application. Unfortunately, we don’t have a formal human resource (HR) policy on school records. But we don’t want to give it back as we believe it’s part of the reason he was employed in the first place. Any advice? — Lone Ranger.

Steve Jobs was right when he said: “Simple can be harder than complex. You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple.” So, how do you think clean? By asking yourself the following simple questions: What would happen if you return a former employee’s scholastic records, including an original copy of his birth certificate, among other pre-employment documents?

Why complicate things? If you want to protect the integrity of your hiring process, then you can release the original of the requested document, but only if the employee signs a receipt that he has received the original copy. This simple solution avoids unnecessary friction.

Don’t burn bridges with former workers, regardless of the circumstances of his separation from employment. The issue has become insignificant after the termination of your work relationship with the employee. What’s the use of retaining the original copy of a former worker’s school records?

Don’t be petty. Don’t sweat the small stuff.

Just the same, I’d like to give you a balanced view and reasons why you should not return the original copy of the resigned worker’s scholastic record. It’s all about the workers’ money claims against an employer.

Article 306 (291) of the Labor Code says any claims for damages, unpaid wages or allowances, etc. must be filed by an employee “within three years from the time the cause of action accrued; otherwise (sic) they shall be forever barred.” In case of an illegal dismissal, this law is supplemented by Article 1146 (1) of the Civil Code when it extends the filing of money claims to four years.

This means management and the HR department must retain all documents pertaining to the previous employment of a worker, regardless of the perceived validity of the quit claim that he signed upon the release of his terminal pay.

You don’t know what will happen in the future. Therefore, be safe than sorry.

One more thing. You’re citing the absence of a formal management policy in rejecting the former employee’s request. Of course, it’s important to be guided by a written policy. However, in the absence of an HR policy, you have to look into applicable provisions of the Labor Code, Civil Code or other pertinent laws.

Just the same, you don’t have to be legalistic. You must decide based on what’s fair under the circumstances. If you’re in HR, you should be the first person to anticipate possible future action by a resigned worker. You can do so largely by understanding the person’s behavior while he was employed.

Is he the kind of person who could file an unwarranted action against your organization? Review his personnel records. Interview his former boss to discover other possible motives. Most of the time, what’s needed is a truckload of common sense to make a sound decision.

You can’t write a formal policy to cover all employee issues in the future. You can only rely on understanding the letter and spirit of all motherhood statements that are enshrined in your company mission, vision and values.

At some point, we all have to make a dynamic decision based on what we perceive to be the right thing to do. It all depends on the length and depth of your experience in people management. Your description of the situation with the former employee is a case in point.

How you manage this situation would determine the kind of logic and principles you practice in life. To many people, weighing the pros and cons is complex, and the decision could set a precedent for the future. Sometimes, a legally correct decision might not pass the scrutiny when viewed through the lens of morality. It is this fine line that people managers face all the time.

If you’re in management, you can’t avoid making the dynamic decision required under the circumstances, no matter how risky it may appear to be. Whatever the decision, you must consider the legal and moral angles, with the help of other managers similarly situated.


Join Rey Elbo’s Non-Competitive Benchmarking Forum on Managing Attrition. This public event to be held on May 26, 2023 at Dusit Thani Hotel gives enough opportunity for all participating companies to distill the best possible tools and techniques in reducing their employee turnover. For details, chat with him on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter or e-mail or via