No matter how careful you are in conducting your business, you could always find yourself being sued by an employee looking for an easy way to get some money. This is why you need to take any possible precautions, including training your HR department well, so as not to end up losing your reputation and a lot of money in the final outcome.
Workplace pieces of advice
It is very important for every employee to feel safe at their workplace. This is where HR needs to keep their wits about potential misconduct; otherwise, a small complaint could evolve into a nightmare for everybody.
Bullying and sexual harassment are the most frequent types of complaints today. If you, as the business owner, or anybody from the HR becomes aware of a potential sexual harassment or bullying, the allegations need to be inspected quickly and fairly, while also having a clear procedure in case the allegations turn out to be true.
This is done through having forms of written complaints prepared, as well as organizing an investigation and witness interview. It is crucial to have all the findings documented, that way reducing the chances that the employee who is terminated if the allegations are true doesn’t have any legal basis for pressing charges.
Age discrimination also plays a certain roll in the area of work complaints. More precisely, you are not allowed to ask potential job candidates over the age of 50 if they are planning to retire soon or any other age-related question. The HR department should completely stay away from questions like that. It would also be a big mistake if you need to let go of several employees and concentrate only on those older than 50 – you could be facing a lawsuit in no time.
So as to avoid any potential future problems and lawsuits, it is important to follow a couple of rules:
– have clearly written job descriptions, along with the employee’s responsibilities and your expectations from their performance
– always be very clear when enforcing your requirements
– create a specific discipline process
– have high standards and demand them from everybody equally
The most frequent mistake by a manager or HR is not making notes and keeping records of bad behavior or underperformance of an employee. If every warning and discipline procedure is verbal, then it could all turn into a hearsay discussion on the court. Detailed documentation of repetitive misconduct of an employee helps you reduce the chance of losing the lawsuit.
How to properly discipline and fire an employee
Let’s go through the process of firing an employee in detail:
- You need to give constructive criticism and instructions to help the employee improve their performance. This is the first sign to the employee that they need to pay attention to their performance issue or any kind of conflict that they are involved in in the workplace.
- If the underperformance of bad behavior of the employee continues, this is the time to write down what the performance issue is. Also, reference the description of the position the employee occupies, along with your performance expectations, and provide a copy to the employee.
- The final discipline action needs to include a written agreement, specifying the employee’ performance or behavior that needs to be improved. The agreement should also include recommendations for improvement.
- If it comes as far as having to fire the employee, the process of terminating an employee should also be planned in advance and very detailed. The first thing is to take care of security – deal with keys, passwords, address access and all other security items. It is also advisable to have a witness during the process. A final interview should also be conducted, and documented later on. In case that the employee is going to receive compensation, if possible, write a check in front of the witness. Lastly, ask the employee for a feedback, either on the interview or afterward, in the written form.
Potential issues with foreign workers
Many businesses have foreign employers, who usually work in specific areas where there is a lack of local experts. There are numerous benefits of employing a foreigner, but it can also be one more way for you to be sued at some point. If you are considering hiring a specific foreign expert, it is crucial that your HR department works closely with a reliable immigration agent knowledgeable of immigration visa issues. This way, you will prevent that the foreign employee doesn’t put the blame on you as their employer in case things with the visa get complicated and the employee has to leave the job and the country.
A specific case is if your company deals with undocumented employees. With only a couple of exceptions, undocumented employees have the same legal rights and remedies that are provided to all workers in the country. It is up to the HR department to be familiar with the exceptions so as not to put you in a position where an undocumented worker could find a basis for a lawsuit against you.
Make sure your HR department is capable of providing the proper protection steps, as well as providing proper training to the management so that no one can accidentally expose the company to a lawsuit. Maybe it won’t stop every lawsuit, but it will definitely make the process easier for you if it ever comes to that.