Legal Exposure Issues:
In the next two blogs we will look at the two largest employee termination concerns for any business in today’s world: Legal Exposure and Workplace Violence. This month we will examine legal necessities.
Unlike most nations, the US labor law heavily favors employers. Employment is generally ‘at will’ and can be terminated at any time provided that it’s not illegal. Likewise, an employee is free to leave a job at any time for any or no reason with no adverse legal consequences. Some managers think they can simply fire without cause. It’s not that simple! There’s more to consider before terminating an employee. It’s important to recognize that an “at will” employment relationship does not prevent many types of risk in terminations.
The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) continues to see an increasing demand for its services. In Fiscal Year (FY) 2023, an estimated 22,448 cases have been filed with the Agency*. According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) employers may expect to spend up to $300,000 in compensatory and punitive damages in taking a case to trial (these limits vary depending on the size of the employer) **.
So, what can you and your organization do in this stressful situation to ensure you are not acting too fast? Here are three items to consider so that your company does not end up in an expensive legal battle, or other risky situation.
1) Develop or Revise the Employee Handbook
An employee handbook is a key document that consolidates employment policies, formally welcomes new employees, and explains the mutual expectations and obligations that arise during the employment relationship. The handbook that explains workplace policies can help an employer minimize liability with respect to employment-related issues. A well written handbook provides legal protection. However, outdated content in an employee handbook exposes employers to the risk of liability. Employers should regularly review their handbook.
2) Develop a Mission, Vision, and Core Values
Without knowing the company’s goals and direction, it’s impossible to know who to hire or how to market. Without a north star, work is inherently inefficient. This is where having a well-defined mission, vision and core values make all the difference.
Core values are the behavioral standards that provide clarity in decision-making processes and help businesses succeed in creating a strong organizational culture. A recent study in the Harvard Business Review found that companies with strong core values outperform those without them by 282%. It isn’t enough to simply outline core values. They should be woven into the interview and performance management processes. Employees need to “live” the core values as they provide greater detail about expected behaviors that drive a culture of compliance and ethical conduct.
3) Manager Training
Managers have a legal responsibility to prevent and address discrimination, harassment, and retaliation in the workplace. Since managers are considered “agents” of the company, they need to receive training so they are aware of how to address inappropriate or harassing behavior because they and the company can be held liable. If managers have not been trained to recognize, prevent, and properly address inappropriate behavior, legal landmines may be forthcoming. All managers should receive training that addresses the following:
• Modeling appropriate workplace behavior
• Maintaining awareness of any inappropriate workplace behavior
• Exercising care to prevent and promptly correct inappropriate behavior
• Immediately reporting forms of discrimination, harassment, or retaliation that may be brought to their attention or witnessed by them
•Handling disciplinary actions and terminations properly
Next Month – Part 2:
In next month’s blog we’ll talk about other risks associated with terminations including mental health and workplace violence to ensure your organization is compliant with employment laws and maintaining a safe workplace.
Does your organization have these and other appropriate items in place? The Bradley Partnerships (TBP) is your trusted partner with extensive experience in employment and human resource matters. TBP can help you develop or revise your employee handbook, develop your mission, vision, and core values along with developing customized manager training to support your business needs. Contact TBP to learn more about our expert human resources consulting services and our customized approach for your organization.
You can reach the Pittsburgh corporate office at: (724)799-8170, or by visiting our website at www.bradleypartnerships.com, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We look forward to helping your organization succeed!
*Unfair Labor Practices Charge Filings Up 10%, Union Petitions Up 3% in Fiscal Year 2023; Office of Public Affairs. PublicInfo@nlrb.gov
**EEOC Remedies for Employment Discrimination; www.eeoc.gov/remedies-employment-discrimination