For any business, its employees are its lifeblood. Loss of even one good employee can wreak havoc with customer relations and production – especially for a small business. You want to be a good employer so that you can retain and recruit talent easily. You strive to be good employer to avoid the drama, lost time, cost, and unnecessary troubles that come with poor and inconsistent management. And throughout, you must be a law-abiding employer. This is a lot to handle – especially when you are not an expert in human resources and employment law.
Employers need help navigating the endless employment and labor laws so they can avoid lawsuits and workplace disputes. Small businesses and non-profit organizations face the same obligations towards their staff as big and corporate employers, but without the same resources, like an in-house Human Resources department or a large law firm on retainer. Who wants to spend time learning how to hire and fire employees when they are trying to cultivate business and build a brand?
As an employer, you have obligations to comply with state, local and federal laws on nearly everything relating to your staff. From overtime to OSHA, you face liability if you don’t know and meet your legal obligations. Whether you’re looking for an Employee Handbook, advice on how to deal with an employee who needs an accommodation, the impact of legalized marijuana on your staff, or training on sexual harassment, we can help.
You need to know how to make sure you meet your duty to respect these rights:
- Right to a safe workplace
- Right to a fair wage
- Right to be free from discrimination and harassment
- Right to be free from retaliation
- Right to privacy
You don’t need a lawyer’s help on each of your staffing decisions. You don’t need a lawyer every time you discipline or even fire an employee and you certainly don’t need one every time you hire new staff. But wise use of an employment lawyer at the beginning can help you initiate and foster good employment practices that help you avoid lawsuits.
When an employee claims unfair treatment, or when you feel like a workplace disagreement spirals out of control, it could be too late. You want to avoid problems before they happen. Avoid issues by tapping our knowledge – it can be less expensive than you might think. Similarly, if you are thinking about expanding or are bringing on more remotely-sited employees, an attorney can help you update existing policies to better respond to a mobile workforce and comply with laws across multiple states.
We specialize in helping progressive businesses, non-profits, unions, and small employers navigate the confusing and seemingly contradictory laws, rules and regulations to ensure they don’t make a fatal misstep. If you’re not sure whether you need a lawyer to help your business, call us to find out. During our intake process, we will talk with you briefly, but enough to get a sense of whether we think we can help you, whether we’re the right firm for your needs, or whether it’s premature to meet with us.
If you know your organization needs a lawyer, don’t delay in finding one. Delay can cause misunderstandings and liability and can make an uncomfortable situation go from bad to worse.
Is your business required to have an Employee Handbook? Technically, no, but if you have even one employee, state and federal law requires that you give your staff written notices of their rights. More importantly, without an Employee Handbook, your employees might develop misunderstandings about their obligations to the organization and the scope of their rights within the organization.
An employee handbook establishes policies and standards. By having a written handbook available to everyone, the employer smartly ensures that all employees are on notice of what is expected of them. The handbook is a guide for everyone – staff and managers alike – to set standards. These across-the-board standards help ensure that employers treat employees consistently and, in doing so, they also help avoid ammunition for discrimination claims.
An employee handbook further helps a business and its staff by outlining essential policies, such as an effective anti-sexual harassment policy which should instruct employees and managers to promptly report any harassment.
The lack of an employee handbook can be the genesis of a host of problems, such as unauthorized overtime or chronic poor attendance.
Although you may be reluctant to spend the money on a handbook, a handbook will help your organization avoid problems in the future. As Benjamin Franklin said, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”
Hiring & Firing
Most businesses believe they don’t need guidance when hiring new staff. It’s an exciting time for the organization as well as the new employee, and no one wants to think about what might happen if things don’t work out. Although this initial phase of the employment relationship is usually positive and optimistic, it’s important to start the relationship with clear understandings. As a small employer, in a perhaps competitive industry, you need to think about several things when you hire new staff:
- do you need an employment contract?
- are you mistakenly creating an employment contract, or a guarantee of employment, when you don’t mean to?
- should you consider having a non-competition agreement and, if so, what’s reasonable under the law?
- does the new employee have a non-competition agreement with another company that may impact what s/he can do for you?
- if your new employee is coming from the federal government, are they subject to any post-employment restrictions?
Many businesses also think they can fire an employee without legal advice. Firing an employee can unwittingly lead to core misunderstandings of why the employee is being fired which, in turn, can result in unnecessary lawsuits and place a huge burden on your small organization.
We give small and progressive employers guidance on how to ensure they engage in good employment practices, including following the rules on hiring and firing, and following “best practices” in dealing with all phases of the employment relationship. A few simple conversations with a knowledgeable employment attorney at the beginning of the employment relationship can avoid a host of problems that may arise later.
When an employee alleges discrimination or sexual harassment, the employer must investigate the claims – and promptly. Not only is an investigation legally required – it’s also a smart business practice. By conducting the right investigation, we can help you reduce exposure, minimize costs and liability, avoid collateral damage, and restore your business to normal.
Your organization can avoid liability and enhance comradery by providing smart training to your staff. We offer training on workplace issues, including the following:
- Anti-harassment and harassment awareness
- Bystander intervention
- Workplace bullying
- Reprisal and retaliation
- ADA and reasonable accommodation
- Diversity & cultural awareness
- Family Leave
- Discipline for misconduct and performance