Facility operators can stay out of court by paying attention to the 'Three Rs.'

When it relates to employee misconduct, ignorance is not bliss. In fact, it is just the opposite. That's why facility operators should remember the "Three Rs:" Record, React and Review. Fitness, recreation and athletic facilities can be fertile terrain for inappropriate behavior, and these three fundamental practices have either prevented industry professionals from going to court over employment and liability issues, or gotten them off the hook in front of a judge or jury. Here's how they work:

Record. Maintain written reports of any employee's misconduct or questionable behavior, and make sure the staff members involved sign off on all performance evaluations and disciplinary actions. Keep those documents on file for at least seven years.

React. Follow up the first "R" by taking appropriate action against a staff member. This can include reassignment to a different department or section of the facility, the scheduling of behavior-modification sessions, demotion or even termination.

Review. Consider the effects of the second "R." If you've addressed a performance issue, set a timetable for future performance evaluations. Consider, too, what other action (if any) is required. For example, is additional training needed? What else must be taken into account to ensure that the situation has been properly handled and rectified?

Documentation of alleged improper instruction, injurious behavior or inappropriate actions of employees and independent contractors (such as personal trainers) shows due diligence on the part of an employer. Reports of undocumented conduct or, even worse, hearsay, look bad in court.