As you may have already realized employment law covers a wide range of employee issues in the workplace. As a business owner you become responsible for ensuring your employees are protected against many aspects of that law. In protecting your employees it most likely will mean that you will be advised to issue discipline up to and including a final written warning, i.e., terminating one of your staff.
But like all other laws, employment law does not care whether you knew or didn’t know that any certain aspect of the law existed. The law makes you responsible for adhering to it and if you don’t you could end up in a courtroom facing an enormous law suit, maybe for let’s say discrimination. Just to put things into perspective a good employment law lawyer will run somewhere in the neighborhood of around $300 per hour. Trust me, unless you settle out of court it will take much more than an hour or two to resolve the case. In most cases hundreds of hours depending on the complexity of it.
Now my intent is not to scare you! My intent is to try and help you understand that you have a responsibility that you may not have bargained for when you dreamed of owning and running your own business. Employment laws includes everything from discrimination to the Family Medical Leave Act. In order to better familiarize yourself with employment law one of the best things you can do as a start is producing your own employee handbook. In the process of producing it you will understand that there are countless policies you should have in order to protect you in the event you do have to issue a final written warning to one of your staff.
By having an employee handbook in place it will ensure that your staff know what policies you have on certain things, such as, sexual harassment, gossip, fighting in the workplace, drinking on the job, smoking, use of company property, insubordination, attendance, tardy, no call no show, falsifying an official company document like a time card, stealing, gross negligence, American with Disabilities Act, Fair Labor Standards Act, overtime, vacation, sick time, unscheduled absences, etc. Making it clear what your position is, provided it meets federal and state guidelines, will help to protect you should you ever find yourself facing a law suit.
Provided you follow your own policies equally and legally many employment lawyers representing a disgruntled employee will quickly realize they have a bad case and most likely will not pursue it. I know that this is my experience in every potential case I faced it was quickly dropped after providing evidence of our actions and our employee handbook.
The final written warning letter can also help to answer many of
the questions in an employment law lawyer’s mind if their client
presents them with it. I always try to include/list all previous
warnings I issued and the specifics of the present one. Most importantly
I include a reference to our employee handbook and how it spells out
the reasons the individual is receiving their final written warning
The law also allows for an employee to file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Again, it has been my personal experience that once I have provided our evidence of how the employee knew of our policies (we had them sign for our employee handbook and attending our new hire orientation) the claim was quickly dropped. Now I will not sit here and tell you it was a piece of cake going through this process, because it wasn’t. What I will tell you is that I didn’t need an employment lawyer to answer to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. I just submitted the information they requested in the format they asked for. It was a time consuming process but I was able to do it myself saving thousands of dollars.
The point of this article is to stress how important understanding the law is as a business owner, and secondly ensuring that you have an employee handbook to spell out your employment policies in the event you are faced with issuing a final written warning.
Good Luck and May God Bless You!
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