If your company gets sued by an employee, it can cost you everything you’ve worked to achieve. Employment litigation is a deal-breaker for a lot of companies.
Employee lawsuits involve time and money in business attorney fees that can put any business on its knees.
Fortunately, taking a few simple steps can help you avoid employee litigation and make your company a pleasant place to work.
Know and Obey Discrimination Laws
Many businesses have a practice of hiring only people of a certain age, gender, or even race. Some employers think that a younger workplace makes it more vibrant. Others hire younger employees to pay lower salaries.
But did you know that is illegal? Unfair hiring based on age, race, or gender breaks discrimination laws and can land you in employee litigation quicksand.
In effect, businesses can’t base hiring decisions on things like age, gender, religion, disability, and whether the prospect is pregnant. Some states even add sexual orientation to the list to prevent discrimination against the LGBT community. You’d be surprised to find that, even in this day and age, racism is rampant in hiring practices.
A lot of employment litigation cases happen because of discrimination-law violations. Discrimination can lead to unnecessary termination and business lawyer fees, which can cost dearly.
Luckily, lawsuits are easy to avoid – just know and follow the law!
Hire because of competence, not because a person is of a particular nationality or sexual orientation. Correct hiring saves you from potential negative publicity that could damage your reputation.
Do Not Allow Working off The Clock
We all have that image of the hardworking employee. You know, the one that powers through lunch working at the desk?
While this is admirable, it’s also illegal. Not for the employee, mind you, but for you.
That’s right. You can get sued if your employee decides to skip lunch and work instead. Working off the clock is illegal because it’s considered unpaid labor. The surprising thing is that even if the employee does this of their own free will, you could still face an employment litigation case.
That’s why, as counterintuitive as it sounds, you must put protocols in place that deter employees from working without logging their hours.
The best way to avoid potential employee litigation from this issue is to be strict about it. You’ll now appreciate why most human-resources managers harp on employees about taking their lunch. It is for the employees’ well-being and the company’s as well.
Make Reporting Complaints and Injuries Easier
Your employees are the lifeblood of your company and taking care of them makes perfect business sense. Take care of the basics, such as making sure they’re well-compensated and have the right benefits.
At best, this leads to better performance that improves your bottom line. At the minimum, it saves you from potentially costly employee litigation cases.
One of the best, most overlooked ways to show care is when the inevitable injuries arise. Injuries are an inescapable part of business, primarily if you use heavy machinery. Quick-paced, high-pressure environments like restaurant kitchens are also prone to injuries.
The least you can do is to have a comprehensive system in place that makes reporting injuries straightforward. And it all starts with understanding and being prepared for worker compensation rights.
In a nutshell, you are legally required to pay out benefits to your employees if they get injured or ill while doing their jobs. In exchange, your employees cannot sue you for negligence claims.
Be certain to insure your business for workers’ compensation early on. Without insurance, even minor employee injuries can result in thousands of dollars in compensation, straight out of your pocket.
Employees have a set time frame to formally file any workers’ compensation claims, usually within 30 days. While their claim is under consideration, the employee is already entitled to immediate medical attention. After a set time, the insurance company will either deny or accept their request.
During this time, be sure to act in good faith and speed up the claim process for them. Give them the necessary documents. Have an internal process set up to handle injuries and claims.
Some employers are nitpicky and try to find faults in employees’ claims to avoid paying compensation. Don’t resort to such tactics, especially if the employee is crucial for the success of your company. Genuinely care and help them get their claims to avoid employment litigation cases later on.
The bottom line is, workers’ compensation is a vital aspect of any business. For more information, you can check out this comprehensive workers’ compensation guide. You can also get the expert guidance of your business attorney to help tackle staff litigation cases arising from injury claims.
Document Deficiencies in Performance
One of the hardest (and most unsavory) things any business owner must do is to fire employees. Sometimes, the company must move forward, especially if an employee is doing more harm than good.
But contrary to what TV and movies would have you believe, you can’t terminate an employee on a whim or for the smallest mistake. That’s an employee lawsuit in the making right there.
To terminate an employee, you must have just and probable cause that complies with labor laws. And there are tons of legalities, including severance pay, that employers must address depending on the nature of the termination. Hiring a business attorney for your company is one of the best investments you can make.
To protect yourself from employee litigation scenarios, you need to document your employees’ performance carefully. Regularly monitor their attendance records, how they get along with staff, do performance reviews, and pay attention to other metrics.
By having a written record of performance, you’ll have the necessary proof if you need to fire someone. You create a stronger case for your decision and lessen the chance of an employee lawsuit.
Performance reviews also work in reverse. You can use reviews as a basis for promoting people or giving them raises; this protects you from any employee litigation charges as well. If you have records to prove you promoted that guy in Finance because of performance, not just because you went to the same school, no one will question you.
Seek Advice From A Professional Business Attorney
Having a competent business attorney is one of the best things you can do for your business. From day one, they can help you avoid dangerous employee litigation pitfalls and legal landmines. Sadly, not many companies hire attorneys. They see company lawyers as an unnecessary expense, only realizing they need one when an employee lawsuit pops up.
It’s challenging to keep track of the laws and regulations that your business must comply with. Mastering business law takes years of skill and thorough knowledge of the legal system that only a business attorney possesses.
Business lawyers can help you with everyday business concerns like employee litigation, contract issues, or customer lawsuits. Some areas, such as dealing with the IRS and taxation, require a business attorney with tax specialization.
If hiring a full-time business attorney is not possible for you, consider getting one on a retainer basis. At the very least, you should maintain useful contacts with a few business attorneys in your area. Call upon them when stuff like staff lawsuits arise. You can usually get in touch with corporate lawyer associations for referrals.