Friday, September 12, 2014

Final of the Top Ten Practices to Avoid Employment Liability

This week we’ve shared our top ten tips to avoid employment liability. Again, we stress that employers cannot prevent employees and would-be employees from filing claims against them. All employers can do is operate in a way that makes their actions defensible. Here are our final two tips:

8.  Evaluate Employees Regularly and Accurately

This seems simple. The major hurdle that employers face is that for a variety of reasons many supervisors have trouble evaluating their staff accurately.  We have heard it explained to us that a supervisor doesn’t want to demoralize an employee so they inflate the evaluation to maintain good morale and to encourage employees with positive reinforcement rather than criticism. The only problem is that when discipline or some sort of adverse action is necessary the employee’s work record won’t support it. A fairly common example of this is the employee who is chronically tardy or absent. At some point the supervisor becomes exasperated with the behavior and wants to suspend or fire the employee. The problem is that the employee’s performance evaluations reflect acceptable or sometimes excellent scores. The supervisor may explain that anomaly by remarking that when the person comes to work, they do a good job and they wanted to focus on the positive behavior. We have to point out that coming to work is the first element of acceptable performance and by not addressing the issue earlier it creates the appearance that attendance wasn’t an issue.  Ancel Glink litigators have remarked that they would rather have no performance evaluations in an employee’s files rather than inaccurate ones. The solution here requires two parts. First, employers have to take the time to train their supervisors in how to evaluate accurately. (see Tip #8) This includes reinforcing the understanding that they can still motivate staff and address underperformance.  The second part is that if supervisors cannot or will not address problems with staff members through accurate evaluation and discipline, resulting in them laying the problem at the employer’s feet when it becomes too much, then this is underperformance by the supervisor and the employer has to address that regularly and accurately with that person.

9.  Keep Updated and Informed on Changing Labor and Employment Laws

What if you were not aware of the recent interpretations of labor law regarding employees criticizing their employer on social media? What if you were unaware of the expansion of protections for pregnant employees? As the workplace changes, so do the laws that impact it. Employers must stay current on the ever changing workplace laws in order to avoid liability to their employees.

The attorneys at Ancel Glink provide advice and representation on all aspects of labor and employment law, including assisting you in implementing our top ten tips to avoid employment liability. Contact Margaret Kostopulos, Darcy Proctor or any of the Ancel Glink labor and employment attorneys for assistance or to evaluate your needs.