Monday, January 3, 2011

My New Year's resolution is... Patience

According to the Williston Herald, the ancient Babylonians made the first New Year's resolution more than 4,000 years ago. They believed that one should spend the first day of the new year "reflecting on personal past errors and planning to resolve them to improve the self during the following year." After spending the last 11 days with my kids (who I love dearly), I decided that my resolution for the new year would be patience. In the spirit of my own path to self-improvement, I thought I'd share a few thoughts on how employers can be more patient, and, in the process, improve relations with their employees and limit the risk of lawsuits.
  1. Patience with the chronic complainer. Every workplace has that employee -- the one who, at the drop of hat, lodges a complaint about something. It might be a co-worker, it might be a boss, it might be the quality of the free coffee, or it might be the thermostat setting. Employers should exercise caution with this employee. A drop of patience might avoid the retaliation lawsuit when the chronic complaint turns into protected activity.
  2. Patience with the habitually absent. Most workplaces have rules about absences. I've counseled enough employers to know that most take those rules very seriously. An employee who is habitually absent, however, might not be irresponsible. He or she might be dealing with a medial issue that is causing the absenteeism or tardiness. A modicum of patience with this employee might avoid the creating of an FMLA or ADA quagmire.
  3. Patience with wage and hour laws. Anyone who reads my blog regularly knows that I take wage and hour compliance very seriously. I am reasonably confident that I could walk into any business in America and uncover at least one wage and hour violation. The laws are simply too complex for any employer to execute them perfectly, at least without careful and constant guidance from an experienced practitioner. A little patience in the area of wage and hour compliance, however, will go a long to way to avoiding a costly DOL audit or class action lawsuit.
  4. Patience. Two years ago, I wrote about what I call the Golden Rule of Employee Relations: "If you treat your employees as you would want to treated (or as you would want your wife, kids, parents, etc. to be treated), most employment cases would never be filed, and most that are filed would end in the employer's favor." I think if we try to be a little more patient in all situations, we would face less strife and fewer lawsuits.
Happy New Year everyone. What's your resolution?

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