As the manager of a busy company, there are plenty of things to keep track of daily. There are orders to place, shipments to track, workers to manage, and spreadsheets to update.
It would be understandable if employment law is not top-of-mind, but it’s important to make sure your company complies at all times for items large and small.
Before calling attorneys and hitting the panic button, take a moment and review these tips to ensure you’re operating within the law.
Read job descriptions for discriminatory language.
Even words that seem innocent enough, like “energetic” or “new,” can offer a close brush with being illegal. Be sure that there are no suggestions of ability, age, gender, national origin, sexual preference, anything that might be deemed either preferential or discouraging to any group. Keep in mind the Equal Employment Opportunity law’s “disparate impact” rule that makes it illegal to exclude any person or group from the ability to apply for a job. Instead, talk up the skills needed to stand out among other job candidates. Building on that idea…
Clearly establish the essential functions and physical demands of a job.
Does an open position require a lot of time sitting still behind a desk typing or taking calls? Or, in contrast, will the successful applicant need to crawl, climb up ladders, lift heavy boxes (be specific when possible) and stay upright for long periods of time without sitting down? Be specific about the requirements of a job and the candidate’s expectations and, where applicable, how often these demands will be met. Is a position mostly seated four days out of the week, but one day is spent in a warehouse, walking around and helping manually move boxes? Note the exceptions and outline any situations in which reasonable accommodations apply that might be otherwise outside the scope of the title.
Properly classify jobs within an organization and create a reporting structure.
This might not seem very important, but it’s good for everyone to know where they stand in a company’s hierarchy. This lets managers know who they go to with any problems or complications, and it allows employees to know who they report to, all at a glance. If there’s a high turnover rate, this will simplify things and provide structure during temporary team shortages. A reporting structure and corporate chart also give management a chance to assess whether there are too many people in one position or on a single team and identify shortfalls in other areas. Clearly identifying when a position is “exempt” or “non-exempt” lets everyone know when working overtime is acceptable as needed or can only be performed in very particular circumstances, among other items.
Ensure your personnel policies are up-to-date and keep proper personnel files.
If policies aren’t in place, how will someone know if they’re in violation? An employee handbook’s existence is one thing; the availability of in-depth policies that are explained to everyone and to which everyone is held accountable is something else. If someone needs to be fired for violating a policy, it is critically important that they know what the policy was ahead of time. Otherwise, it could sound like a made-up grievance, and that can cause the company trouble down the road. Policies for things like harassment, proper workplace conduct, even dress codes aren’t the most engaging documents to prepare and review, but they are essential to keep everyone treating each other with respect. Should someone violate a policy, or if an employee is repeatedly warned about being in violation, all of this should be noted in their personnel file, so there’s a written history. Personnel records should also track employee anniversaries, pay rates, application documents, performance reviews, warnings, commendations, emergency contact information, etc. Paper trails are important.
Be up-to-date on anti-harassment and anti-discrimination training.
While these training pieces are not federally mandated, it is strongly encouraged and recommended that employers make this training available, if not offered in-house for all employees, regularly. Workers can learn that your company takes harassment and discrimination very seriously and that they will be supported should an incident occur. If there are examples to provide when someone was removed from a position because they acted inappropriately toward an employee, that will encourage trust between employee and manager. It will also outline the steps taken to rectify a situation, and that harassment and discrimination will not be tolerated or shrugged off.
Many employment laws might sound like a “cover all bases” approach, and there’s some truth to that. But as much as these laws exist to protect employees, they also protect employers and managers against false accusations. Still, they only work if there are proof, documentation, and a paper trail.
If you have questions about whether your employment law files are up-to-date and acceptable, call Debbie’s Staffing. We’ve worked with leading companies for decades and understand how tricky it can be to navigate these challenges. Contact us today, and let’s get started!