Lawsuits don’t just happen to the rich and famous. If you are a business owner who hires employees, you too could find yourself on the wrong end of a subpoena. It is important to understand how this can happen and what you can do to avoid this unpleasantness.
No matter how hard you work to recruit the best employees, the time will eventually come when you will have no choice but to relieve someone of their duties. The process of firing is never easy, but it can become infinitely nastier if you don’t have all of your ducks in a row in terms of documentation.
A person does not just suddenly become terminated; the decision is made as a result of a chain of events. It is your responsibility to record each one in detail. Furthermore, you must be sure that the employee is aware of the situation as well as the exact protocols for termination. Get his or her signature on all documents, ensuring that you have a solid paper trail. Taking these steps will go a long way toward protecting you from a wrongful termination lawsuit.
Toxic or Discriminatory Work Environment
As the business owner, it is vital that you promote an environment of respect and professionalism in your workplace. Many employees have become quite knowledgeable about their rights pertaining to harassment, either sexual or racially based. Avoid litigation by training everyone in workplace etiquette and proper conflict resolution techniques. Don’t be afraid to step in if a potentially volatile situation is brewing; prevention is far preferable to cleaning up a big mess after the fact.
Failure to Protect Yourself and Your Workers
Injuries on the job are one of the most frequent sources of lawsuits. Obtaining a comprehensive workers compensation insurance policy can provide a twofold benefit, financially compensating employees if they are injured at work while simultaneously protecting you from a negligence lawsuit.
Workers compensation insurance can even help to cover the costs you incur to temporarily replace an employee during their recovery period. Although you might be tempted to avoid shelling out the money for these premiums, the coverage will pay for itself many times over in the event of a serious injury to one of your staff members.
Failing to Take an EEOC Charge Seriously
What if the worst happens and you receive a communication from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) regarding an employee complaint? Don’t procrastinate or simply hope that the charges will disappear. This is a federal agency that takes its mission seriously, and so should you. In addition, don’t take out your feelings on the worker who has brought the charge. If you do, your behavior will almost certainly come back to haunt you in court.
As with most other aspects of life, being proactive is much better than dealing with long-term, protracted and expensive consequences. To the extent that you can be organized, careful, transparent in your communications and attuned to your workers’ responsibilities, needs and rights, you can go a long way toward avoiding the courtroom. As a result, you can continue to do what you do best: running your business.