Employers are bound by various laws to take steps to minimize employee liability. The smart employer, however, will go beyond these requirements to add another layer of protection from employment claims, because such claims can be complex, expensive and unpredictable. After all, juries are made up of people – people who likely identify with employees. If you do end up in court, you’ll be glad you took steps to minimize your exposure.
5 Steps to Minimize Employee Liability
1) Document. Employers often fail to document employee issues, relying instead on memories of the event. This is dangerous. Far better to document all personnel actions and decisions using a uniform documentation method, including forms which outline disciplinary actions, and routine evaluations which incorporate employee feedback. Do not fear feedback! An employee’s feedback can sometimes prove to be exactly the information an employer needs to defend a claim.
2) Train. Employers must train supervisors in the proper way to document incidents or grievances. Far from being a burden, proper training can make the difference between winning or losing a claim. At minimum, train supervisors in equal opportunity laws. After all, the majority of employee lawsuits involve the actions or words of a superior. Good training is the employer’s best defense to liability…or may even prevent a lawsuit from being filed.
3) Investigate. What is the easiest way to remain aware of potential employee problems? An effective complaint process clearly communicated to all employees. Employers must insist the complaint process is uniformly followed. Every complaint must be investigated. If the complaint is valid, appropriate action must be taken, and swiftly. This process cannot end in the employer’s favor 100% of the time, or the process runs the risk of losing credibility. Employees who follow the process to file complaints should never be retaliated against.
4) Act. Even with a good supervisor training program in place, the employer who is aware of but fails to proactively address a “problem” supervisor may find himself in a tight spot. The supervisor exposing the company to liability must be counseled and receive further training. Employers should not fear taking more drastic action if warranted. What the employer does not want is for a jury to hear evidence that the employer was aware of the difficult supervisor but took no action.
5) Adjust. Practices, procedures and policies need adjustment from time to time. Stay current with the latest employment law development. Regularly review and update job applications, interview procedures, job descriptions, handbooks, evaluation forms, leave forms, etc. and update as needed. Review exempt and non-exempt employee designations. Properly maintain personnel files. Update required postings.
Finally, talk to your Missouri employment lawyer, who can help to ensure your liability remains minimal.