In several previous posts, I’ve written about the co-dependent and often contentious relationship between companies and their employees. Back in the good old days (about ten years ago), employers took it for granted that if they treated their fairly, they’ll stay out of trouble. Unfortunately, in today’s litigious world, even the best employers have no such assurance.
In fact, the longer your company is in business, the more likely it will be that you’ll someday face a disgruntled employee in court, and preparation is the best defense.
That said, every employer should follow the following six simple tips to prepare for the inevitable:
1. Written Policies and Procedures Document: Create an employee handbook that clearly sets forth all workplace policies and procedures. Provide all employees with a copy and have them acknowledge their receipt and understanding of it.
2. Consistent Enforcement: Consistently enforce all policies and procedures. Failing to do so for one employee will provide ammunition to another if a dispute ever goes to court.
3. Termination Witness: Always have a witness present when issuing a disciplinary action or termination.
4. Regular Audits: Periodically audit your policies and procedures handbook at least annually to incorporate any changes in the law. Any time you change your policies and procedures (especially your disciplinary procedures), immediately circulate a revised handbook for employees to read and sign.
5. Termination Checklist: Create a termination checklist that sets forth each and every step you took (as required by your written procedures) to handle the employee up to the point of termination.
6. Record Keeping: Keep meticulous records for no less than four years.
Be certain to retain a competent business attorney to draft your workplace policies and procedures, and to review them regularly.