When running a business, nothing can be more catastrophic to your success than a costly, time-consuming legal issue. Yet some of the most devastating lawsuits may arise not from your customer or competitors, but your own employees!
With this said, having a solid, collaborative, and unified team in your Human Resources department can in various ways help avert legal issues before they ever arise or become complex enough to derail your success. Whether you have a dedicated in-house HR department or choose to outsource one, the law is the law– a double-edged sword that cuts deep if you let it.
From establishing clear policies to working with employment lawyers where necessary, read on to find out why it’s essential to have a solid HR department for your venture, specifically how they can help prevent legal issues and minimize the associated risks.
1. The Role of Effective Communication in Avoiding Legal Risk
Effective communication is essential to avoiding legal risks in your business. It’s also among the best ways to ensure inclusion in the workplace environment for any business. And whenever decisions are made, it’s important to remember that you must act within the realm of the law.
Having a solid HR department can be a great way to make sure all communication regarding company policies, matters of discrimination, hiring/firing practices, and benefits regulations reflect this responsibility and due diligence.
For example, when making employment-related decisions such as reviewing resumes or interviewing potential hires, employers need to be aware of how their chosen methods may negatively impact certain individuals while affording them equal opportunity and consideration as all other candidates vying for the job position.
2. Establishing Policies to Minimize the Chance of Discrimination and Harassment Complaints
Ask the likes of Mo Eldessouky from Eldessouky Law, a firm that represents employees’ rights in Riverside, California, and they’ll tell you one thing. “Unfair labor practices can destroy careers and families”, and it’s important to respect your workers by upholding state and federal employment laws!
Employers need to develop appropriate policies to minimize the chance of discrimination and harassment complaints arising in their business, particularly when they involve protected groups such as religion, race, and gender. Such policies should aim at ensuring that employees are treated fairly and equally regardless of their background or demographic characteristics. Otherwise, these can result in costly legal issues for a company.
For instance, you may want to have a written document on equal treatment, with clear instructions for addressing any prejudice in the workplace. You may also want to have policies regarding completing regular assessments to determine whether there is inequality amongst your staff based on protected criteria. Moreover, it pays to conduct necessary training sessions focused on compliance awareness at both the onboarding stage and periodically thereafter.
Luckily, all these are things that a solid HR department can help accomplish, albeit with the guidance of a legal expert.
3. Hiring (And Firing) Legally to Avoid Unlawful Employment Practices
For an employer, having a reliable HR department can also help ensure that hiring and firing are done as per the law – to the letter. To maintain legal obligations when recruiting, for instance, many jurisdictions require employers to refrain from administering questions specifically created to target protected classifications like race, color, gender, and pregnancy, among others.
In addition, they should also make clear how the hiring process will be standardized and objective, document which criteria each potential candidate needs to fulfill, and ensure consideration occurs between both internal and external sources equally.
Regarding dismissal procedures, the last thing you want to wake up to as an employer is finding one or several wrongful termination case papers served or slammed at your office desk. This being one of the most common workplace lawsuits, it’s exceedingly important to act fairly and follow the proper due course procedures when laying off staff or terminating contracts.
More so, the notice of termination you issue should also carry legitimate reasons for the decision, without reflecting unlawful practices like ageism or discrimination against race/gender, etc.
A mistake in these matters can get you into hot soup with the law, but a solid HR team can help you get it right and avert any legal consequences during recruitment or employment termination.
4. Timely Regulatory Compliance for Employee Records, Leave Policies, and Benefits
One of the primary roles of a sound HR department is ensuring timely compliance with laws and regulations involving employee records, leave policies, benefits packages, and so forth. This includes staying up-to-date on relevant practices in your locality or jurisdiction (e.g. state laws).
It also requires being cognizant of any changes to federal legislations like minimum wage requirements – which can have far-reaching implications for managing staff remunerations appropriately across various states.
A solid HR team can also help ensure that confidential staff documents like performance appraisals and other records are safely archived, in line with guidelines set forth by their respective labor unions.
Furthermore, employers need to take greater care around tracking sick leaves and vacations, alongside the respective rates applicable through their state departments. This can help see that employees are correctly compensated during periods without work activity.
It can also help when implementing budgets for collective health plans/programs and other benefits that staff members may be entitled to over a given period upon termination or change in status within the organization.
5. Proactively Responding to Claims by Taking Appropriate Action
Once claims of discrimination or harassment arise, it’s critical that employers take the appropriate action upon receipt to avoid any potential lawsuits. That’s why a reputable HR department is in charge of developing protocols for dealing with incidents and complaints received. This may include gathering relevant evidence, assessing the validity of each case (if not already taken care of internally), and issuing timely disciplinary measures as a result if required in specific instances.
No matter how embarrassing or difficult it might seem in many cases like these, communication transparency remains key when responding and negotiating with those affected – whilst focusing on corrective solutions over punitive ones if necessary. Especially from the more common cases like gender discrimination, this helps limit unnecessary liabilities against the company, while also strengthening its position regardless of repercussions potentially resulting from such proceedings.
6. Seeking Guidance from Employment Lawyers Where Necessary
When in doubt over legal implications that might unfold as a result of particular contents or processes (e.g. payroll deductions), employers should resist the urge to make knee-jerk moves that would attract legal trouble. It’s always best to seek expert opinions instead, on how best to move forward and find a solution that benefits all the parties involved.
As long as you’re in business, things can go south legally, at any moment, even with some of the most experienced individuals in your HR team. However, a sound HR team will know just when to enlist the services of an experienced employment lawyer. With this in mind, legal experts can help ensure compliance and prevent legal issues down the line for your business and HR unit in a diverse range of situations. Some of these include:
- Creating and reviewing employee contracts
- Formulating policies for disciplinary actions
- Observing workplace safety regulations
- Navigating employee disputes and lawsuits
- Conducting compliance audits
- Assisting with employee investigations
- Stay up-to-date on changes in employment law
In these and many other scenarios, expert attorney advice, especially through a good HR team, can by far help reduce legal risks for you as an employer, while also protecting your labor force, which is your company’s biggest asset.