Improve Employment Practices
Improving and controlling employment systems is key to improving employment relations and minimizing litigation risks. For example, improving an employment system involves focus on providing clear documentation, identifying accountability and requiring consistent follow-through for your employment practices. Both managers and staff need to be trained on your systems that apply to the full cycle of employment – from recruiting through separation. Below are some of the most common areas of operation where process improvement is needed.
Discrimination and Harassment
Most companies want to eliminate all forms of discrimination and harassment in their workplace. Your company may believe that you have taken the necessary steps to prevent discrimination and harassment, but without a clear understanding of your responsibilities and practices, illegal discrimination and harassment practices may still be occurring. For example, companies can be vicariously liable for the discriminatory and harassing behavior of one co-worker to another co-worker if the employer knew or should have known that such conduct was occurring. Therefore, companies should have systems in place to educate their personnel about their non-discrimination and non-harassment policies and practices.
Wage and Hour
How does your company track and report working hours? Does you company consistently follow its sales or commission plans? By implementing a consistent process for ensuring that wages, including commissions and bonuses are paid accurately and legally, you can protect your company against a common source of lawsuits. Wage complaints by employees may trigger a Department of Labor lawsuit. When state-level audits reveal illegal practices for the payment of wages or misclassification of employees, the resulting fines and penalties can be substantial. A best practices system around employee compensation can protect against these risks.
Family and Medical Leave
Implementing best practices systems for FMLA leave will help you prevent FMLA violations that may occur when the company does not fully understand certain provisions of the law. For example, concepts such as a “rolling year method” or “intermittent leave” often trip up employers trying to provide Family and Medial Leave to their employees. A system of best practices can ensure that FMLA leave is administered in compliance with applicable laws.
The Americans With Disabilities Act (“ADA”) requires employers to reasonably accommodate the disabilities of their employees. To do so, the employer first needs to articulate the “essential function” of each employee’s job. Then the employer, working with the individual with a disability, should identify a range of reasonable accommodations that may remove the difficulties, either in the work environment or job tasks, which would allow the individual to perform the essential functions of the job. If your company does not have this system in place, it may not be in compliance with the ADA.
Companies must implement best practices to ensure that employees feel safe to speak up if something illegal is occurring at the work-place. Companies need to have a written anti-retaliation policy and must train management so that no manager takes action against an employee because that employee complained of an illegal practice. Not only is retaliation cause for a lawsuit (even if the underlying complaint proves to be not substantiated), but fearful employees who believe that they may lose their jobs will fail to share critical information with management. Creating a system of best practices that actively encourages open lines of communication can help build trust with employees and reduce company liability.
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