When it comes to business, there are so many things that a business owner needs to do and think about to keep the business running. The last thing they need is a lawsuit related to employment matters that can be easily avoided. Here are five tips to avoid employment lawsuits for small businesses:
- Document, Document, Document – This is the golden rule of HR, document. It starts with documenting policies and procedures, documenting what the companies expectations are of the person in the role and then documenting both recognition as well as disciplinary/coaching actions. This is where a lot of employers fall short when it comes to employment claims, including responses for unemployment. When things aren’t documented, they don’t exist.
- Address Workplace Conflicts and Investigate Complaints – Nobody likes to handle conflict or confrontations, but they can’t be ignored in the workplace as they tend to lead to bigger issues for the company and the employees involved. Follow up with employees after investigating a complaint or concern and let them know of the outcome. Not only will it help mitigate legal issues, it gives the employee a level of comfort knowing the company cared enough to follow the issue all the way through. Nip issues in the bud and see it through to a resolution.
- Be Consistent – Follow and enforce company policies for all employees equally. Holding one employee to a policy and not another employee opens the door wide open for a variety of claims including allegations of discrimination, even when not intended by the employer. Consistency is key.
- Pay Attention to Pay Practices – Be sure that employees are classified correctly as either exempt or non-exempt as well as either employees or independent contractors as outlined within the Fair Labor Standards Act and state wage and hour regulations. Pay overtime for non-exempt employees, be aware of any applicable break and rest period regulations and pay attention to employees working after hours because technology allows them access. A wage and hour claim through the department of labor can cost a company a significant amount of money. Know the wage and hour compliance regulations.
- Train Managers – Typically it is a manager that is in the center of an employment lawsuit so it is important to train them on company policies and practices, teach them on how to handle employment situations and provide them with the resources they need to be effective in their roles as managers. Be sure to hold managers to the same standards as everyone else as they typically set the “tone” for the workplace. Managers can make or break a company.
It all comes down to treating employees with respect, being fair and consistent.