Don't Get Spooked By Employment Laws

Does employment law make you want to pull your hair out?

Posted by Joe Gerard in Employment Law, Human Resources on November 2nd, 2011

According to the audience polled before a webinar entitled “Answers to Your Scariest Employment Law Questions,” there’s a great deal of fear surrounding employment law. In the Halloween-themed webinar, host Mark Toth, Chief Legal Officer at ManpowerGroup North America and author of the Manpower Employment Blawg, attempted to dispel some of the audience’s fears with facts. The more you know about the law, the less you’ll fear it, he reasoned.

When asked which employment laws scared them the most, 22% of those who responded to the pre-webinar survey listed terminations as their number one worry – followed by wage and hour, litigation, medical, investigations, unions, hiring, immigration and technology. In the survey, Toth also asked registrants whether they felt that compliance with employment laws is getting easier or tougher. 65% replied that complying with employment laws is getting harder and 14% responded with much harder.

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Lawsuits are expensive and can tarnish a company’s reputation. Toth listed six ways you’re guaranteed to get sued in today’s business world:

  • Don’t address potentially systemic discrimination
  • Don’t address wage & hour issues
  • Don’t address executive bad behavior
  • Don’t thoroughly investigate complaints
  • Don’t accommodate disabilities
  • Don’t prevent retaliation (join the line behind the other 36 000 employers that have been charged for failing to prevent retaliation)

The Numbers

The latest data shows that the odds of an employer winning an employment discrimination lawsuit is 48%. Toth shared some data from the EEOC, Jury Verdict Research and the Manpower Blawg to demonstrate just how much an employer can expect to pay in a given case:

  • $0- 50 000 – one plaintiff and no horrible facts (32% of cases)
  • $51 000-100 000 – one plaintiff and horrible facts (28% of cases)
  • $100 000- 1M – A pattern (or class action suit) and or horrible facts (39% of cases)
  • $1M+ – Big pattern (large class action suit) and or really horrible facts (1% of cases)

One of the questions submitted for the webinar was about whether or not you should settle a frivolous suit or follow through and proceed to court. Toth recommends thinking really hard about your decision, as the costs of settling are often much less than the costs of litigation.

Termination Troubles

As mentioned earlier, the employment law that scares people the most is terminations. Toth shared the top 10 things employers do that get them into trouble when an employee is terminated:

  • Not telling the real reasons
  • Poorly planned termination meeting
  • Ignoring policies/contracts
  • Poor post-termination communication
  • Ignoring past practice
  • Reacting based on emotion rather than facts
  • Not getting a release
  • Inadequate documentation
  • Not treating the employee with dignity and respect
  • NOT firing someone who should be fired

Facebook Firings

I had a feeling this topic would be addressed in the webinar, as there’s been a lot of confusion over what types of social media comments an employee can or cannot be punished/terminated for. Here’s a list of things that Toth feels employers need to know about social media postings:

  • Don’t discipline for comments about wages or work conditions
  • Be especially wary of group comments
  • OK (maybe) to discipline for comments unrelated to work conditions
  • Review your policy to make sure it’s not overbroad or out-of-date

Joe Gerard
Joe Gerard

CEO, i-Sight

Spend my days showing off the i-Sight investigative case management software and finding ways to help clients improve their investigations. Usually working with corporate security, HR & employee relations, compliance and legal teams.

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