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January 21, 2014

10 Common Employer Errors

Lawsuits & Grievances

Employment discrimination lawsuits have doubled in the last 10 years. Juries are ready and eager to shower aggrieved former employees with millions of dollars in settlements at your businesses’ expense. In 2012, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission received over 100,000 grievances. 

So what can you do to reduce your potential liability?

In addition to a comprehensive HR Audit, identifying 10 common mistakes employers make can assist your organization in making sound decisions and demonstrating best HR practice.

#1   Failure to conduct an adequate and/or legal background check on potential employees.

Do you conduct credit or criminal background checks?  If so, do you obtain proper authorization?  Do you give the candidate a copy of the Fair Credit Reporting Act Summary?  Do you contact his/her references?  Former employers?

#2   Inappropriate interview questions and comments.

Although you want to be thorough in your hiring process, you also have to be careful about what questions you ask. Do you know which questions can and cannot be asked?  

#3   Inappropriately classifying hourly employees as salaried employees.

Just because you slap an “assistant manager” title on an employee doesn’t make him or her exempt from overtime and other benefits. Juries salivate over this issue.

#4   Failure to implement, disseminate, and follow personnel policies.

What are your harassment and discrimination policies? What are your corrective action and disciplinary policies? You might have the most progressive, thorough, & comprehensive policies & procedures in place, but they’re useless if you are inconsistent or don’t follow them at all.                

#5   Failure to train managers.

Do your managers understand the finer points of the Americans with Disabilities Act and Leaves of Absence, such as FMLA? Do they understand that harassment is not limited to sex, but can include religion, age, race, ethnicity, disability?  Do they understand the value of annual performance reviews and how they should be conducted?  Do your managers understand the importance of coaching and progressive discipline?  This training should apply to all supervisors and managers. 

#6   Failure to document promptly and accurately.

Prepare every document regarding warnings, complaints, and disciplinary action as if it is being introduced to a judge, attorney, jury, or the Department of Labor. Be objective – not subjective, (facts only). The document should include the date, the name of the author, the name (and sometimes signatures) of the employee/witness, and details of the issue in question. 

#7   Failure to appropriately evaluate employee performance or adequately discipline employees.

Do you have a formal review process in place? Make sure your assessment of your employees is accurate. Don’t fudge over the problem areas. Remember, the purpose of the discipline, beyond covering your own liabilities, is to help the employee improve. 

#8   Failure to curtail employee favoritism or inconsistent treatment of employees.

We all have seen this one, the ‘favorite’ or ‘cliques.’ Beware: this breeds a lot of resentment among employees and morale WILL suffer greatly.  Expect little respect or teamwork in return from your employees.

#9   Failure to correctly designate, track, & consistently apply Leaves of Absence and/or FMLA.

Do you offer Leaves of Absence or FMLA? Eligible categories include (but are not limited to) the birth of a child, caring for a close relative with a serious health condition, and the employee’s own serious health condition. How do you designate a bona fide LOA or FMLA?  How is it tracked?  Is it applied consistently to all employees?

#10   Keeping inaccurate, incomplete, or incorrect items in employee files.

Do you know what is and is not allowed in an employee file?  Are there documents contained within those files that could potentially be damaging to an employer during litigation?

So, What is an HR Audit?

An HR audit involves an objective look at your company’s HR policies, practices, procedures, and strategies to protect the employer, establish best practices and identify opportunities for improvement. An objective review of the company’s “current state” can help you evaluate whether specific areas are adequate, legal and/or effective.


Visit HRN’s website to learn how we can help!


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