With the college football championship and Super Bowl just behind us, fans are looking forward to next season with optimism for a winning record and possible championship for their team. During the offseason, teams often address weaknesses as they look for the right formula on defense, offense and special teams that will lead to success. In order for a human resources game plan to be successful, it’s also important that your defense, offense and special teams be ready for the challenges of today and tomorrow. As you build your team, here are some suggestions for success:
Conventional wisdom holds that “defense wins championships.” Developing a plan for compliance with the employment regulations and laws is essential to establishing a foundation for human resources success. Here are some defensive steps we recommend to employers:
Conduct an Employment Law Compliance Review – Given the tremendous liability and continued expansion of employment related claims, it makes sense to conduct an employment law compliance review on a regular basis. This can be performed internally or with the assistance of your employment law counsel. Proactive risk management reduces immediate exposure and represents the best strategy to combat the frequency and cost of employment related litigation
Publish Effective Policies – Use your employee handbook, bulletin boards and other communication programs to effectively communicate your policies covering: (a) equal employment opportunity, (b) anti-harassment and (c) complaint procedure. This can serve as a defense of harassment and other claims.
Pay Employees Fairly at the Time of Separation – Many lawsuits and Department of Labor complaints are generated because of confusion or animosity over payroll issues at the time of termination. In general, resolve pay disputes in favor of the employee. While it may cost a little more in the short term, you will save time, money and headaches in the long run.
In the past, many human resources professionals operated in a defensive manner; namely, this involved reacting to perceived threats or identified exposure points. Now, it is vital for employers to take certain proactive steps to reduce liability. Consider the following when developing your offensive strategy:
Regular Training Covering EEO and Harassment – Based on a series of Supreme Court cases and guidance from the EEOC, employers are afforded a measure of protection by: (1) implementing and communicating harassment and discrimination policies, (2) establishing an effective complaint and investigative process, and (3) training managers and employees regarding the employer’s professional conduct expectations. If an employer takes steps to exercise reasonable care and an employee does not take advantage of the complaint procedure, the employer’s likelihood of prevailing in a discrimination or sexual harassment lawsuit is significantly increased.
Investigate Complaints in a Timely Manner and Document Your Actions – The findings of the investigation are vitally important. However, the process of investigating demonstrates the level of seriousness with which such issues are afforded and shows that the employer is meeting its reasonable care obligation.
Employee Attitude Survey – Discrimination and other employment complaints are often rooted in other job-related concerns and problems. An employee opinion survey gets to the root of the problem and eliminates the need for an employee to take his or her complaint to an outside agency.
Proactive Documentation – Make sure that your human resources files and related documentation accomplish a two-fold purpose. First, it lets an employee know that their performance or conduct is not acceptable. Second, the personnel file becomes the basis from which employment decisions are defended and it’s important to make sure that files accurately reflect the events related to employment.
At times, human resources managers need outside assistance. Make sure your special teams include working relationships with:
- Employment Attorney
- Insurance Carriers (Health, Workers’ Compensation, EPLI, etc.)
- Network of Peers
- Local, State and National Association Resources
By implementing these defensive, offensive and special team recommendations, you’ll be well on the way to building a winning human resources team.
This article is designed to provide general information and is not legal advice or a legal opinion based on any specific facts or circumstances. Consult your attorney regarding any specific questions you may have.
J. Scott Hudson, Esq.
Zimmerman, Kiser & Sutcliffe, P.A.