Caution: Some Employee Conduct is Protected

Fire an employee for the wrong reason — or in the wrong situation — and the employee could claim retaliation and file a lawsuit.

Several activities by employees are off-limits to retaliatory actions such as firing or disciplinary action.  Any retaliation by the employer could spell potential legal trouble, such as a wrongful termination lawsuit.

Here are three areas of protected employee conduct:

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Flexible Work Schedules Can Trap You

1378002_16584036You want to be a good employer.  You realize some of your employees need some flexible hours and flexible days because of the demands of young children.

So you adopt a flexible schedule policy for working parents.  You allow employees with young children to arrange with their supervisors for flexible schedules.

You’ve just created a potential swamp of quicksand to get trapped in.

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Managing Remote Employees: Five Issues to Consider

Allowing employees to work from home can provide significant benefits for employers and employees. It can improve morale, reduce real estate and facility costs — office-620817_1280and even reduce traffic congestion and make the environment cleaner. However, when the appropriate oversight is lacking, fraud and abuse can result and wipe out many, if not all, of the benefits associated with a work-from-home program.

Before allowing employees to commute to desks within their homes, consider the following issues to minimize the risk and maximize the returns associated with a work-from-home-program:

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Demonstrate that Your Firm Won’t Tolerate Harassment

file6831274905127It’s probably impossible for your company to eliminate any chance of harassment, but there are precautions you can take to help win a lawsuit filed by an employee:

  • Above all, have a sound company policy against harassment, which includes discrimination based on sex, race, color, religion, national origin, age, disability, or any other class protected by federal, state, or local law.
  • Make sure your employees are aware of the policy. Spread the word through orientation sessions and your employee handbook.
  • Require staff members to sign an agreement indicating that they understand the policy.
  • At least once a year, train your employees and managers on the subject of harassment and its consequences. Employees must be told how to report incidents and feel they can without retaliation.

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Enforcing Work Break Time Limits

clock-594178_1280It can start out as a minor, even overlooked, irritation for managers and supervisors: Employees stretching out work breaks by one or two or three minutes. It becomes a minor headache when they stretch out 10-minute work breaks to 15 minutes. Then it becomes a major headache for managers and supervisors when the 10 minute break becomes 15 minutes or longer.

When employees consistently stretch out the length of work breaks, it’s time for employers to look at their work break policy.

Does your work break policy address who is eligible to take work breaks? When are work breaks scheduled? Where do employees take their breaks? How much time do they have for taking breaks? What discipline do you use for abuse of work breaks? Continue reading

Resolve Employee Complaints Through Investigation

control-427510_1280Employee complaints that allege mistreatment at work have to be taken seriously. Even if you doubt the legitimacy of a complaint, you’ll put your company in peril if you fail to delve into what really happened. However, a poorly executed investigation could do more harm than good and potentially sink you in legal hot water.

Under federal law, you’re required to investigate any complaints involving harassment, discrimination, retaliation or safety issues. But even when a complaint seems small enough that employees should be able to work it out themselves – such as loud music blaring from a cubicle – don’t ignore it. The matter may not rise to the level of bringing in upper management, but employees need to know you take their concerns seriously. Continue reading

Pre-Employment Screening Services Can Help Prevent Workplace Violence

!The numbers are disturbing enough to keep business owners and managers awake at night: nearly two million American workers report being victims of workplace violence every year.

Two million workers. Those chilling figures come from the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA). Workplace violence ranges from threats and verbal abuse to physical assaults and even homicide, according to OSHA.  To make matters worse, experts say that many cases go unreported.

As a result, businesses need to plan how to prevent workplace violence not only with current workers, but before potentially violent individuals are hired.

OSHA defines workplace violence as “any act or threat of physical violence, harassment, intimidation, or other threatening disruptive behavior that occurs at the work site. It can affect and involve employees, clients, customers, and visitors.”

That’s why it’s important to take preemptive steps to screen out workers who might demonstrate any propensity for dangerous or disruptive acts, so they aren’t hired in the first place.

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