Wood Words

Playing it Safe – Keys to protecting your Middle TN business

In case you haven’t noticed, we live in an extremely litigious country.  And in recent years, things have only gotten worse.

During the recession, employee lawsuits against their employers became more common than ever.  Across the nation, claims of age discrimination, pregnancy discrimination, sexual harassment, racial discrimination, disability discrimination and retaliation suits increased dramatically.

Employee lawsuits are an ever-present threat.  How can you protect your company from falling prey to them?  Here are a few common-sense tips from Wood Personnel.  While these ideas are not intended as legal advice, they will help you understand some fundamental ways to minimize your exposure:

Use an employee handbook.  Provide a handbook for every existing employee and new hire, and require all employees to sign a statement saying that they’ve received, reviewed and understand the handbook.  Make sure your handbook contains your equal employment opportunity policy, as well as the other policies outlined in this post.  Periodically review your handbook, updating it to keep pace with changes in the law.

Give employees a formal, internal complaint process.  Within your handbook, outline an internal mechanism employees should use to complain about discrimination (as an alternative to automatically filing a lawsuit).  This may give you an added measure of protection, should an employee skip this step.

Include an anti-retaliation provision.  In recent years, there’s been a marked rise in claims of employer retaliation (i.e., that the employer took action against the employee because he brought suit against them).  Protect your company against this type of claim, by including a statement in your employee handbook saying that it’s your company’s policy not to retaliate against employees over accusations of discrimination or harassment.

Develop and enforce a code of ethics policy.  Create a policy which tells employees that they shouldn’t do certain things, such as accepting kickbacks or engaging in other unethical behavior.  Include the policy in your employee handbook.

Train your staff.  Train your supervisors on your company’s HR procedures and policies, as well as current employment discrimination law.  Make sure they understand:

  • how to document employee warnings and/or disciplinary actions;
  • how to properly discharge employees;
  • how to prevent workplace harassment/discrimination;
  • how to deal with an employee who claims he’s been harassed or discriminated against.

Be consistent.  When you enforce workplace rules, do so for every employee who violates that rule – every time.  By being consistent in your enforcement, you make it extremely difficult for an employee to cry discrimination over a simple discipline dispute.

Consider EPL insurance.  EPL insurance protects businesses from the financial costs incurred from employment-related lawsuits filed for a range of reasons – from wrongful termination to harassment to discrimination.

Reduce your exposure by working with a Hendersonville TN staffing service.  When you work with Wood Personnel, we assume many of the risks associated with hiring and employing workers – such as making sure that non-discriminatory hiring procedures are followed and serving as the employer of record for our temporary employees.  Simply put, we make it safer and simpler to get your work done!  To learn how we can help you minimize your employment-related risks, contact your local Wood Personnel office.