There are some basic principles that should govern how you run your business in a way that minimizes risk and maximizes employer and employee satisfaction. To an employer who has not run its business in accordance with these guidelines, the task of getting it all together may appear daunting. The initial investment of time and money may be considerable, but in the long run the effort will be well worth it for both small and large employers.
Although labor and employment lawyers routinely advise companies on any number of ways to avoid legal entanglements, when I am asked my opinion of the best way to minimize risk, I often say "train your managers"! Your managers are your front lines; they deal with employees on a day-to-day basis. Typically, if there is a problem with an employee; your supervisors or middle management are the first to know. If they are untrained in how to handle interviews, to give performance appraisals and to investigate employee complaints; small problems can become big ones. If they do not have at least a basic working understanding of the laws which govern employer/employee relations, they can cause you more problems than you can dream up on your own.
Managers and supervisors should be aware of how to conduct a proper interview of a prospective employee which can elicit the information needed to make a good hiring decision without fear of a discrimination claim. They should know what to do in the event they witness or receive complaints of sexual harassment. They should realize the importance of keeping accurate records of the hours employees work and should know their own responsibility in making sure it happens. They should know how many hours and days per week employees under the age of 18 are allowed to work and what tasks they are prohibited from performing.
Management training should include a solid overview of state and federal law surrounding wage and hour, worker's compensation, equal employment, OSHA and other laws governing the workplace. It should also include information in basic human dynamics and communication.
So many problems are either caused at the supervisory level or can be avoided if dealt with there. Keep your managers trained. Make sure they understand their roles and responsibilities with respect to managing employees. The investment in time and money will be well worth it in the extra sleep you get knowing your company is in good hands!
Charla Bizios Stevens is a member of the Employment Law Practice Group at the law firm of McLane, Graf, Raulerson & Middleton, P.A. Charla can be reached at 603-628-1363 or [email protected]. The McLane Law Firm is the largest full-service law firm in the State of New Hampshire, with offices in Concord, Manchester and Portsmouth.