As an employer, you have a big responsibility towards your employees. No matter what style of leadership you are adopting, some basic rules should govern the relationship you have with each and every one of your employees. Many small business owners fail to keep a professional setup within their offices of the close relationships they have with their handful of employees. What’s even more concerning is that most of those who follow this approach do it out of a lack of knowledge. However, you should understand that such negligence makes you vulnerable to legal disputes and can cost you your brand’s reputation. Therefore it's critical to learn to handle your employees' legal concerns without affecting your business.
Here are some tips on how to handle your employees’ legal concerns without affecting your business:
Employee handbooks and internal company policies serve a much bigger purpose than some employee onboarding props. These documents should include thorough details of the rights and responsibilities of both the employer and employees. Small companies are often reluctant to invest time and resources in drafting comprehensive policies and choose to put it off for later when they “get bigger”. When in fact, small companies need to be even more adamant about defining company policies earlier on than bigger ones because they won’t be able to afford the costs of legal disputes. If your employee signs upon reading and receiving the employee handbook, this will protect your company’s reputation against potential claims related to “misinformation”.
If an employee reports to HR that they have concerns about their abusive manager, this cannot be the end of the conversation. As the company owner, it’s your responsibility to ensure that such serious claims are acted upon promptly and in a way that appeases the alleged victim. According to the Nashville-based Employment and Consumer Law Group, employees have legal rights to sue you as the employer to recover compensatory damages for therapy mental anguish costs related to their workplace. So, if you don’t want to put your company’s reputation on the line be responsive and take immediate action to show your employees that you are worthy of their trust and loyalty.
In theory, the Human Resources department should be neutral and act as a fair intermediary between management and employees. However, in practice, in most companies, the HR department is not empowered enough to play such an integral role. If you want to find an effective and efficient way to handle your employees’ legal concerns, you should consider investing in empowering your HR department. Hire the right calibers who know how to implement HR policies without favoring one side over the other. Also, you will have to provide your HR professionals with the support they need to take over all employee-related matters even if all you have to do is to get out of the picture. With time, when your employees see that the HR department is proving to have the authority to address their concerns, they will be more willing to open up and be less likely to pursue legal actions against your company.
Whether you have the budget to hire a full-time in-house legal advisor or can only afford a legal consultant, you need to have access to professional legal advice. A lot of times small companies get entangled in legal disputes with employees because they circulate official corporate documents that are in-compliant with employment laws. If your company is located in a state where overtime pay is mandatory and unnegotiable, you can’t decide to cancel it for your employees. When you have a professional legal advisor who oversees your company’s policies and documents and approves them, you will be less likely to encounter any legal problems with your employees that can affect your business.
Understandably, you have to maintain confidentiality when it comes to certain aspects of your business. However, when it comes to your relationship with your employees, you should promote transparency. If one of your employees comes forward and expresses concerns about being discriminated against, you should address the topic with other employees. When you do so while protecting the privacy of the involved parties, your employees will understand that such behavior is not tolerated and will be willing to speak up themselves. Transparency in the workplace promotes trust between the employer and the employees and protects the business against potential legal disputes.
The workplace should be a safe environment for all of your employees. It’s the place where they spend most of their waking hours, so you should make the effort to ensure that they feel comfortable and cared for. Unfortunately, legal problems are often inevitable and you will probably have to deal with a few. However, by implementing the above tips you will be able to address these legal concerns without affecting your business.