Nine Simple Steps to Avoid Employment Lawsuits.

Author:Demaria, Alfred T.
Position:[HR UPDATE]

* You're striving to operate as efficiently as possible to increase your company's profit margin. But then someone in the company steps on a legal landmine and you spend $50,000.00 to win a lawsuit. If you fight and win or lose, you could spend $150,000.00 or more, even on a weak case. You CAN take steps to prevent this scenario. Here are nine of them.

* Make Reporting Complaints Easier. The earlier you learn of an employee's complaint, the better. You can't fix a problem you don't know about. Providing more than one option for employees to complain ensures that they can bring legitimate issues to management's attention and that a supervisor cannot hide issues from upper management.

* Timeliness. Be proactive. Once you learn of a problem, you have to respond. The company's response will obviously depend on the problem, but understand that the response or lack thereof--will be scrutinized. Simply documenting the issue may be enough. Other times, an investigation that results in disciplinary action will be necessary.

* Document Performance Deficiencies. In this day and age, you must document everything. But performance problems and conduct violations are more important than other issues. If you want to discourage a lawsuit, make sure the employee you just fired for performance issues has already been written up at least twice.

* Don't Make Exceptions. A big part of being perceived as a fair employer is consistent application of the rules. When you make an exception for one employee, you alienate the others. So, consistent application of policies regarding promotions, vacation, pay, assignments, awards, discipline, and termination is the only way to go.

* Train Your Front Line. Who needs it the most? Whoever interacts with employees more than any other level of management in your company? Front-line managers. They handle the daytoday gripes that, if not handled properly, become lawsuits. Train them to spot issues, to be proactive, and to be consistent.

* Make Your Handbook a Tool, Not a Stumbling Block. An employee handbook is a tool that communicates a company's expectations to its employees. It should include statements addressing at-will employment; equal employment and harassment issues; work hours; leave and accommodation under the FMLA and the ADA; workplace violence; trade secrets and confidentiality of...

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