Staying on top of today’s competitive business landscape requires your constant attention and action. But when an employee files a lawsuit it can derail even the most meticulous business model. Even if you win the suit, it may cost you thousands of dollars in the process and deflect your attention away from pressing business matters.
Fortunately, there are steps you can take to prevent this unfortunate happenstance. Culled from years of defending employers in disputes like these, labor employment attorney Adam Gates, shares seven proactive tips to help prevent employee lawsuits:
1. Create an easy and transparent complaint-reporting procedure.
You simply can’t fix a problem if you don’t know about it. If employees have clear and easy options in bringing their complaints to light, they will be more likely to do so. Provide a dedicated email or hotline to report complaints or make employees aware that they can report directly to the HR director if there is an issue with their manager or supervisor. Post this information in the break room so that employees are aware of the recourse they have available to them.
2. Be proactive in your response.
If you learn that there is an issue, respond to it as quickly as possible. Documentation is the first line of defense, but an appropriate response over and above the documentation process is important too. If the case goes any further, this response will be heavily scrutinized, whether it results in disciplinary action or further investigation. Bottom line: you must act.
3. Maintain documentation best practices.
Performance issues, conduct violations, injuries, and any type of complaint on the part of any employee against a co-worker or manager must be documented, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant. If a wrongful termination case is initiated, being able to prove cause or show a progression of behavior will be important.
4. Never make exceptions.
Gates has found that an unfair – or somehow misconstrued – interpretation of company rules is the basis for a large majority of employment lawsuits. Being consistent with company policy is a part of fairness in employment standards. If you make exceptions for any employee, you are doing a disservice to others and showing unfair bias. This goes for accolades as well as discipline and termination.
5. Put a strong focus on management training.
Your management team is on the front lines every single day, dealing with their teams and ensuring that company policies are in place and in compliance. Teach them to maintain objectivity, to recognize issues, and ensure they are aware of the procedures required to deal with them. Managing well now may help them avoid time on the witness stand later.
6. Treat your employees well.
Perhaps this is cliché, but treating your employees as you would like to be treated goes a long way to ensuring their happiness. These philosophies should resonate throughout your leadership team, management, and HR.
7. Ensure your employee handbook is up-to-date.
Gates stresses the importance of treating your employee handbook as more than just a formality. It should contain all legal policies, conflict resolution, and disciplinary procedures, and each employee should have their own copy to keep as well as handing a signed copy back for their permanent file. This will give you a recourse to argue disputes should they arise.
These are just some of the ways you can help to prevent costly and time-consuming employee lawsuits for your organization. As the saying goes, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”.
Stewart, Cooper & Coon, has helped thousands of decision makers and senior executives move up in their careers and achieve significantly improved financial packages within short time frames. Contact Fred Coon – 866-883-4200, Ext. 200