Employment-related lawsuits are expensive and time-consuming. They can get personal too—resulting in hurt feelings and loss of morale.
Follow these tips to reduce the chance of litigation and strengthen the company’s defense in the event an employee or former employee files a lawsuit.
- Train employees. Training employees in workplace policies and complaint procedures leads to consistency in understanding rules, discipline and response to complaints.
- Document all employee incidents. It’s difficult to defend a suit if a personnel file is void of documented problems or disciplinary actions.
- Conduct regular evaluations. Regular, honest employee evaluations that document poor work habits support the lawsuit defense. An employee may claim to be unaware of problematic conduct if the company fails to discuss and document.
- Regulate computer use. Enact policies for Internet and email use in the workplace. Make it clear employees have no expectation of privacy when using company computers.
- Know the Fair Labor Standards Act. Review whether the company properly classified employees as exempt from overtime pay, and whether they are employees or independent contractors.
- Practice respect. Common courtesies go a long way. Listen and communicate with employees about decisions that impact them. The more the company develops goodwill, the less likely the company will be involved in employment-related litigation.
- Be fair and objective. Employees need to feel they are treated fairly. Don’t show favoritism and ensure that decisions that may benefit certain employees over others can be objectively justified.
- Investigate claims and complaints thoroughly. An investigation allows a determination of merit to the complaint; if so, respond accordingly.
- Be honest if you terminate an employee. Employers often try to be nice and sugarcoat the reason for a termination. That can become a bigger problem in the event of a lawsuit. A confrontation may be uncomfortable, but it’s in the company’s best interest to be honest.
- Be proactive. Don’t wait for a lawsuit. Confront problems and look for a solution immediately. When uncertain, consult an HR staff or an attorney. Stay abreast of changes in employment law that relate to duties and obligations to employees.