M. Amy Carlin is a partner in the labor and employment law firm of Morgan, Brown & Joy, LLP. She offers expert advice to small businesses to help them stay out of litigation.
M. Amy Carlin
(Photo courtesy of M. Amy Carlin)
“Disgruntled employees do not refrain from suing their employer because the company is a small business. Moreover, when the defendant-employer is a small business, the adverse effects of litigation are amplified. The disruption and substantial costs associated with defending against a lawsuit can be devastating.”
“Small businesses can be vulnerable to such lawsuits because they typically do not have a dedicated person to handle the steady onslaught of human resources issues that require attention regardless of the size of the business. An effective partnership with an employment lawyer can help fill this void. For example, an employment lawyer can assist in setting up protocols and policies that will support a busy small business in multiple ways.”
“First, established policies around such things as hiring, payment of wages, performance management and other important employment issues provide managers and supervisors of the company with a uniform set of guidelines that ensure all employees are treated the same in the terms and conditions of their employment. Uniformity in the treatment of employees is an effective way to mitigate against lawsuits and complaints, as employees often sue their employers when they believe they are being treated differently than their co-workers.”
“Second, a business that has effective processes and policies to address employee complaints is sending a message to its employees that it is interested in solving its employees’ problems with the company internally. This is an important factor when aiming to reduce the risk of an unhappy employee filing a complaint with a governmental agency or court. For example, employees should understand the structure for reporting alleged discrimination or harassment in the workplace, and the business should be focused on creating an environment where reports of this kind are encouraged. Businesses cannot address employee complaints if its employees are unwilling to raise them. This sounds simple, but many businesses have found themselves targeted and surprised by an employee lawsuit because the employee felt uncomfortable bringing complaints forward within the company.”
“An employment lawyer can also assist in streamlining compliance issues for a small business. In short, there are employment policies that must exist for the business to be compliant with state and federal law, and other policies that may not be necessarily mandated by law, but are recommended to mitigate problems and the risk of litigation. Parsing through the multitude of state, federal and local laws and regulations that govern the employer-employee relationship can take substantial time for a business owner/manager, whereas an employment lawyer can provide quick guidance on those employment issues that are most relevant to the business.”
This article was written by Robin D. Everson of Examiner.com for CBS Small Business Pulse.