It is no secret that the field of employment law is vast, complex, and frankly, a little scary. No employer or HR professional starts out with the idea that they are going to be the subject of an employment lawsuit. Sadly, it can happen and frequently does. The best offense is a good defense, and while employment attorneys can be expensive, in the following situations, they are more than worth the expense.
A policy manual should be customized and suited to best fit an employer’s workplace, and Poms & Associates can help you create and update your policy manual to sure you are in compliance with all the latest federal, state, and local law and statutes. However, you need to also have your policy manual checked over by a qualified employment attorney. Why? Because your policy manual can inadvertently create contracts with your employees, or it can contain policies that actually violate the law.
Before classifying a certain position as exempt or nonexempt, or labeling a group of individuals independent contractors rather than employees, it is a good idea to consult with an employment lawyer. Misclassification often comes with a hefty price tag, including years of unpaid overtime and penalties for multiple employees.
Government Agency Involvement
If a representative from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or the Department of Labor shows up in your front office and asks to see your records, it is always a good idea to respond, “Please take a seat while I call my employment attorney.” And then call an employment attorney promptly. Even if you have nothing to hide, you do not want the EEOC or the DOL to be going through your employment personnel files and/or records without a lawyer to review all requested documents before the EEOC/DOL has access to them to ensure that you are not revealing more than is requested. The investigation will find something done wrong if given unfettered access, and it can lead to hefty fines or even legal action.
Complaints of Illegal Harassment, Retaliation, or Discrimination
Harassment is obviously a hot topic in the news right now, and no one wants to be that workplace sweeping everything under the rug only to be face with a multi-million dollar payout to the plaintiff. Also, it is important to be aware that sexual harassment is only the fourth most-common claim made to the EEOC; claims based on race, disability, and retaliation all were more popular last year.
Because these cases can be so convoluted and complicated, it is a good idea to have an employment attorney check if you are in compliance with the law and conducting the investigation correctly. Another best practice is to double and triple check your policies and procedures are in place and in compliance with the law now, before you get a complaint.
Laying People Off
When laying off employees, you always want to make sure you are in compliance with the law. For example, the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act requires certain actions which you will want to comply with. It is also important to be aware of different laws in different states; California’s employment laws are very different then Wyoming’s. If you are offering severance pay, you will want your employees to sign a general release of claims in order to receive that severance. A well-written release will state that the employee signing gives up his or her right to sue for several reasons or agrees to a non-compete or non-disparagement clauses in exchange for severance. It is best to have an attorney write this for you to ensure compliance with all federal, state, and local laws.
Served with Legal Papers
Do not, under any circumstances, think you can handle the situation on your own. You do not want to make a mistake on the legal side of things and lose your case over an easily-avoidable technicality. Don’t respond to the papers, don’t contact the employee/former employee to attempt to clear up any “misunderstanding,” just call an attorney right away.
You may think that it's too expensive to pay an attorney to advise you about issues that you can handle yourself. Attorneys are expensive, but losing lawsuits can cost you even more. Employers need an employment attorney to help them prevent lawsuits and prevent compliance problems.