A new year often comes a host of new business resolutions. While the end of the year is a great time to reflect, it is also an ideal time to create a plan on problem areas that need to be addressed. Below is a list of five of the employment law problem areas businesses often face and suggestion on how to overcome them.
1. Revamp the employee handbook
Many organizations are still using handbooks that no longer reflect the company’s current policies, or worse, do not contain comprehensive policies addressing family and medical leave, social media, conflicts of interest, religious harassment, etc. Handbooks need to be reviewed, updated and distributed on a regular basis to keep up with the latest workplace challenges.
2. Know your wage and hour law compliance rules
In recent years, the U.S. Labor Department has become increasingly active in investigating wage and hour law compliance. That, combined with a growing number of plaintiff’s attorneys who specialize in wage-hour lawsuits, puts your company at risk for serious legal action – which is generally not covered by insurance. Take time to conduct a wage-hour audit to make sure you are in compliance with both federal and state laws. This will ensure you are paying everyone properly and not running up a large back wage liability for your organization.
3. Fine tune your harassment policy
While the number of sexual harassment lawsuits have declined during the past couple of years, charges alleging religious and racial discrimination have been increasing. Work with your HR team to create a policy that covers all forms of harassment prohibited by federal and state laws, and includes a specific reporting procedure, as well as a back-up reporting procedure for any allegations that are made. Once you’ve updated all of your policies, reissue them to all employees and make sure the employees sign documentation stating that they have read the updates.
4. Freshen up on the management training
Many discrimination charges and lawsuits are usually the direct result of someone in a management position breaking the law or failing to act when he or she should have. Either way, your company will be held legally liable for the actions (or inaction) of any individual it places in a manager position. As a result, in order to help avoid employment-related claims, all managers should have a firm understanding of how to hire and terminate properly, how to deal with harassment complaints, how to deal with religious accommodation and how to properly counsel an employee about poor performance.
5. Brush up on the FMLA
Many HR team members and managers still do not understand the requirements of the Family Medical Leave Act. As a result, they often fail to properly document the leave in writing when an employee must be gone for an extended period of time. Unfortunately for the employer, improper documentation may make otherwise lawful termination of an employee exceedingly difficult. In order to prevent surprises, work with your management team to develop a firm understanding of proper compliance with this law and what types of documentation needs to be collected in order to keep lawsuits at bay.
Partner, Fisher & Phillips LLP
Follow her on Twitter @laborlawyersaz.