Employment Law List of Tips for Small Employers & Businesses
Or How to Avoid an Employment Lawsuit
PART TWO OF TWO PART ARTICLE
Although many smaller employers may not think about it employment law affects your business because as employers you are held to most of the same duties and responsibilities as larger employers. There are numerous federal and state statutes that regulate and effect the employment relationship. Thus the employer/employee relationship creates a vast opportunity for controversy, disagreements and litigation. The area of employment law is so vast and books are written that address specific topics. This hot tips article is designed to give a very brief overview of issues that you as employers should be concerned with. The most important point to remember is that if you do not know the answer—-seek the advice of an experienced employment law attorney.
List of some of the Federal and State laws that may apply: (Note there are many more employment laws and regulations not addressed in this article)
2. The Equal Pay Act of 1963;
3. The Age Discrimination of Employment Act of 1967;
4. Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990;
5. Section 501 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973;
6. The Civil Rights Act of 1991;
7. Florida Civil Rights Act;
8. Family Medical Leave Act;
9. Fair Labor Standards Act.
Although the threshold number of employees required for coverage varies with each act it is good employment practice to behave as if all the non-discrimination laws applied to you whether or not your business meets the threshold number. Good employment practice will help to avoid lawsuits and disgruntled employees. To that end below is a list of general guidelines in the employment process to follow.
Tips continued : (One through eleven are contained in Part One).
12. Workers Compensation
Be aware of Workers Compensation:
a. The Florida Workers Compensation Statute applies to your practice if you have four or more employees.
b. The affect of this is that if an employee sustains an injury that arises out of and in the course of employment it will most likely be covered under workers’ compensation.
c. Note that if you summon an employee to the courthouse to help you in a trial and the employee gets hurt in a motor vehicle accident the employee may prevail in a claim for workers compensation. Consult a workers compensation attorney for further explanation.
13. Discipline —what to do if Employees Fall Short
a. When weaknesses or problems with an employee’s conduct or performance begin to surface, fairness dictates that the difficulties be brought to the employee’s attention so they can be corrected.
For example if you have an employee who is consistently late 5-10 minutes everyday over a few weeks, do not wait until you terminate the employee to state that the behavior is unacceptable.
b. Discipline should be progressive. If an employee’s conduct does not meet expectations, the employee should be informed of this and equally important, advised that continued failure to meet expectations will result in more severe disciplinary action, up to and including discharge. Discipline should become more severe as the employee’s unacceptable conduct continues.
c. An employer’s failure to follow a progressive discipline and specifically advise the affected individual when his or her job is on the line gives the employee an opportunity to argue that, although recent conduct was known to be unsatisfactory, the employee did not understand the degree of that dissatisfaction.
14. Evaluating the Employee
It is a good idea to let employees know how they are doing: the strengths and weaknesses.
a. Performance evaluations should be limited to job content.
b. Avoid overrating the employee.
c. True and accurate performance appraisals should be given.
d. The appraisal does not have to be long and complicated. It can be as simple as listing the requirements of the job and a checklist as to how the employee has performed.
15. Consistency Is Important
Fundamental fairness dictates that similarly situated employees be treated similarly. A discharge may be fair on its own, but if other employees have engaged in the same or similar conduct without being discharged what seemed fair in isolation may be unfair in comparison and hard to defend in an employment lawsuit.
For example: do not allow a male employee to come to work late most every day and then terminate a women for the same behavior; do not allow a white employee to be out of work sick for three days without a doctor’s note and then request a doctor’s note when an African-American is out sick.
Practice tip: Different treatment to employees in a similar situation gives rise to an inference of discrimination.
16. To alleviate confusion have an Employment Policy Handbook
a. A handbook is a good place to confirm the employment at-will relationship
b. A handbook is a good place for required employment policies that apply to your size business.
c. Handbooks promote communication between the employer and employees
d. Handbooks can inform and educate employees about policies, expectations and benefits.
e. Handbooks establish uniform (and non-discriminatory) policies and rules.
f. Receipt for Handbook provides documentation of employees’ receipt of employer policies. and can help defend in employment lawsuit.
In summary, once you have hired the best employee for the job it is your responsibility to keep her or him on the job. In order to do this you must:
1. Communicate the full requirements of the job.
2. Utilize the employees’ qualifications.
3. Establish clear performance standards with feedback to employees.
4. Discipline employees as needed.
5. Do not violate the employment laws
6. Keep documentation of employment actions.
Keep documentation of employment actions.
7. Be consistent in your employment decisions.
When in doubt seek the advice of an experienced employment law attorney.
By Debora A. Diaz, Esq.
Disclaimer: The area of employment law is a broad array of common law, codes, regulations, and statutes. The purpose of this article is to get you thinking about Employment Law and how it impacts you as an employer. This article is not a dissertation on all the possible areas of employment law just some highlights of importance.