It’s a common occurrence for today’s HR professionals to be on the defense of a legal battle. It’s not necessarily because of an increase in negligence by the HR department, but because employees are now more aware of their legal rights. As a result, there’s been an increase in the number of employment-based complaints, charges and lawsuits by current or former employees. Lawyers are jumping on this opportunity, too, empowering angry employees to take corrective action and sue. The expansion of employment laws does not help the HR professional either, making it easier for employees to initiate a lawsuit. Needless to say, as an HR professional it’s crucial to be prepared and take preventative action now. Here are some of the top reasons that employees resort to legal action:
1. Bad relationship with the boss – If you’ve ever seen the movie “Horrible Bosses” this should paint a good picture of how a relationship with one’s boss can be an extremely terrible situation. Fortunately, most people don’t plot to kill their bosses. Entering into a lawsuit isn’t a great compromise, however. To settle disputes before they occur, it’s the HR professional’s responsibility to train supervisors and provide them with basic employment law concepts, so that supervisors don’t engage in inappropriate behavior or fail to lead by example. Although the recent economy has forced companies to make cut-backs, training supervisors should not be one of those cut-backs. An employee’s supervisor plays a large role on an employee’s performance and their self-efficacy. The better the supervisor, the happier the employee and the lesser chance for employee turnover or legal action.
2. Outdated Personnel Policies and Practices – It is crucial to do an audit on the HR and payroll functions in an organization. Without an audit, mistakes are bound to arise. The HR department needs to make sure that all policies, such as overtime, compensation and benefits, and exempt employees are classified correctly. The Department of Labor has become more aggressive in recent years, handling employee concerns, leaving HR professionals on the chopping blocks. Getting one’s finances in order now, will prevent a messy clean-up later.
3. Wrongful Termination – One study reveals that the most important prediction of whether a terminated employee will sue is how he or she was treated during the termination interview. An employer needs to go into a termination interview prepared to present the facts. It’s better to be clear, concise and articulate. Give the employee a clear basis for the discharge and let them know how much time they have to collect their belongings and leave the building. It can be awkward to say these things, but if supplies go missing later, it’s best to have a time frame for when a terminated employee left the company. Also, go into the termination interview with a third-party present. In case the terminated employee decides to sue, a third party can testify to what happened during the termination interview.
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