Employees and Employment Law
The problem of discontented employees is pervasive. The reason? The federal government and certain states avail employees of more legal rights than in many foreign countries. These rights range from those conferred by union collective bargaining agreements to whistle-blower statutes, the FLSA and similar laws governing overtime and minimum wages, OSHA, the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, and working conditions in general. Trying to interpret all the above without expert legal counsel can present a slippery slope for unwary business owners.
The first step in protecting yourself from litigation is to set up a standard process for both hiring and firing. Ideally, this should entail documentation relative to the different types of positions in your business, as well as an employer policy manual, and documents tailored to termination or separation.
If the procedures are uniformly adhered to, they will go far toward protecting you from frivolous lawsuits, claims filed with the state labor board or commission, and even work-related injury claims. If you are a large enough employer to trigger a majority of the above-mentioned statutes, the manual you finalize should address each one, at least in summary form.
Claims of Discrimination or Harassment
Nothing can bring a company to its knees faster than a federal investigation into claims of workplace discrimination, and sexual harassment. To help prevent this from happening, it is best to follow a planned approach in interviewing that has been approved by legal counsel.
Although systemic discrimination is less likely to occur in small companies, businesses that range in size from 50 to 135 employees are big enough for cliques to form and discriminatory conduct to take root. It is therefore advisable to keep on hand all resumes received, as evidence that you hire qualified people from a diversity of candidates regardless of their age, race, ethnicity, or gender.
It’s also important to have your legal counsel hold meetings with your managers to teach them how to discourage harassment and eliminate offenders before they become a problem. By adopting and enforcing regular policies, and holding meetings where necessary, you will weed out these problems before they begin to grow. Then, yearly maintenance will keep them out.
Illegal Immigrant Employees
Documented processes and procedures should be in place to readily identify employees who don’t have the right to work in the United States legally. Regular checks of your workers, including random background checks, can help prevent you from employing individuals who are in the country illegally. It is not uncommon for certain businesses to falsify immigration documents. If the federal government uncovers this deception during an immigration audit, it can in some cases shut down a company, sometimes permanently.