Monday, February 22, 2010

How to avoid employee lawsuits (in 4 easy steps)

Today’s Wall Street Journal offers the following three tips to small business owners to avoid lawsuits by employees:

  1. Classify employees properly.
  2. Maintain an antidiscrimination and harassment policy.
  3. Document, document, document.

These are all excellent points, each of which I have covered here in depth in the past. Let me suggest, however, that each of these considerations are meaningless unless you add a 4th step to this list – Training. Your supervisors and managers need to know:

  1. What your overtime policy is and how employees are supposed to be paid.

  2. What discrimination and harassment mean, how to recognize them, and what to do upon witnessing it or receiving a complaint.

  3. In a judge’s or jury’s eyes, an empty personnel file means that there are no problems with the employee. A blank slate will lead to search for an illegal reason for the termination.

Without this crucial 4th step, you leave a gaping hole to be exploited by employees in the lawsuits that are certain to be filed as a result of mistakes made by your management. Consider hiring a professional to train your managers and supervisors on an annual basis. The training costs are a drop in the bucket as compared to potential legal fees defending lawsuits and funding settlements or judgments.

Presented by Kohrman Jackson & Krantz, with offices in Cleveland and Columbus. For more information, contact Jon Hyman, a partner in our Labor & Employment group, at (216) 736-7226 or