The Global Human Resources Outsourcing (GHRO) team is sharing some hard-won business insights directly from the source.
”A Practical Guide to Human Resources Management” is a 266-page guidebook to the intricacies of the world of employment from Jeff Stinson, founder and president of Global Human Resources Outsourcing (GHRO).
Chapter 8 – How to Stay Out of Court
There was a time we could resolve employment problems internally, and utilizing the court system was rarely an option. This began to change 20 or so years ago, and today just about any employee issue should be viewed as a potential lawsuit.
What would you do if one of your employees lied on his application for promotion and told you he had a degree when he didn’t? Some of you might fire him, some might not. What if he did it again and again, and finally a fourth time? No kidding, this really happened. At some point he lost his job and sued. Did my customer “win” the case? Of course he did – at the cost of $100,000.
It is not always unavoidable and sometimes even preferable to allow a case to go to court. There have been times when a certain plaintiff’s attorney had decided to send his kids to college by representing my client’s ex-employees. The case I shared earlier was the first of three this attorney would file. The first case needed to go to court to show them that my customer would not roll over and settle.
An employee’s perception of a claim is his or her reality, and there is no shortage of plaintiff attorneys to take these cases. If there was a legal area in this country that I would consider legalized extortion, this would be it. Many of these cases are filed hoping and knowing that a company will quickly settle to avoid the cost.
I am not an attorney and would never offer legal advice. What I do know, though, is that life at work is complicated and if you don’t believe me, consider the many federal laws with which employers must comply.
I believe the key to all of these laws is understanding the basic concept that you cannot treat one group of people differently from others for reasons like:
- Physical or mental disability
- Medical condition
- Marital status
- Sexual orientation
- National origin
- Veteran status
Please remember that this list is constantly evolving, and your state may have additional protected groups.
Unfortunately, you may be discriminating without even knowing you are doing it. There are two concepts in this area with which you should be familiar.
Disparate impact is the result of policies that appear neutral on their face but have an adverse impact on a protected group.
Disparate Treatment involves treating similarly situated employees differently because of some prohibited factor. Ever seen Tootsie?
Another thought is to not rely on the concept of “at-will” employment. Under this theory, employees can be terminated at will. There are so many exceptions to this concept that it will rarely keep you out of court.
And then there’s arbitration, the advantages of which are many. This chapter has a detailed section on this topic.
Next: Chapter 9 – How to Train Them