What Do Business Owners Ask to Avoid Employee Lawsuits?
Unethical behaviors across workplaces and organizations have been exposed over the past few years, with allegations even stretching into the jewelry industry.
Now, companies large and small are focusing extra attention on their employment policies and making sure nothing gets swept under the rug. Even the federal government is adopting policies to create more awareness about harassment.
If you think your jewelry business is immune to employee lawsuits and the need for handbook policies, think again. The fact is that every business is at risk of accusations that could bring forth an employment practice lawsuit.
The first question on jewelers’ minds shouldn’t be “How do I handle an accusation once an accuser comes forth?” but rather “What are common workplace complaints and how do I prevent them?”
Jewelers Mutual offers access to a legal hotline that connects Employment Practice Liability policyholders with professionals at Jackson Lewis LLP. These are the topics callers from all businesses ask about and are ones you should also consider before taking any action.
*Data provided Gen Re
At 6% of calls, employee misconduct is the least received topic to the Jackson Lewis hotline. This may be due to the term “misconduct” getting interpreted in a variety of ways.
For a jewelry business, a troublesome form of misconduct is internal theft.
You may consider calling the hotline and asking “How can I legally investigate if an employee has been stealing from the business?”
Discrimination and harassment
Discrimination and harassment account for seven percent of calls to the hotline. Both extensive issues that can lead to lawsuits. The total number of these calls have doubled in the past year alone, probably due to the spotlight on harassment.
Here’s a sampling of the many questions that could be asked:
- Are there any new laws that I need to be aware of before screening job candidates?
- How should I respond to an employee’s complaint that he/she has been harassed by a coworker?
Drug and alcohol issues
Hopefully asking “How do I approach an employee about their drug abuse?” isn’t something you have to face.
If it is, it would be wise to join the other eight percent of callers to the hotline who ask similar questions.
Pay and benefit issues
Calls related to pay and benefit issues equal 13%, which is a hot topic due in part to the gender pay gap debate.
Calling the Jackson Lewis hotline could help answer a question like “What should I do if my pay scale becomes imbalanced?”
Workers comp issues
Laws are in place to protect employees and keep workplaces safe; violate them or be proven negligent and it could be the beginning of the end for your business.
That’s why workers compensation and employment practices liability insurance are frequently discussed — and why business owners keep close relationships with their insurance agents. They’re not lawyers, though, and can’t answer every question you have.
With 17% of incoming calls to the Jackson-Lewis hotline revolving around workers comp, these are some questions you may consider asking:
- Do I need to hold the position open for an employee out with a workplace injury?
- What if the employee’s physician recommends more time off before returning to work?
- Do I have to accommodate the returning employee who cannot do his old job?
Firing is difficult, which is why 23% of callers to the hotline ask for help about it and it’s the number one trigger event for employee lawsuits. Even though the decisions are tough, wrongful termination lawsuits can be avoided.
You might ask:
- Is there anything I need to do before terminating an employee?
- Am I breaking any laws as a result of terminating an employee?
- Can an employee claim retaliation because of their termination?
Leave, disability, and attendance issues
It’s easy to see why over a quarter of all calls are about these issues.
You can probably think of a recent situation where you were tempted to throw your arms in the air and yell “YOU’RE FIRED!” to an employee who comes in late every day. At the very least, punishing them would probably be on your mind, too.
However, if they claim your business didn’t have an employee handbook that established attendance guidelines, you could end up facing a lengthy – and costly – litigation process. Even if you’re not in the wrong, the time and money you spend to resolve an issue like this can be debilitating.
Leave and disability situations are usually more complex, which is why it pays to consult an expert.
These are some not-so-black-and-white questions you might ask:
- What happens if an ill employee asks to extend medical leave?
- How do I respond to an employee’s request for a disability accommodation?
- Are there any laws that prevent me from punishing an employee for excessive lateness or absences?
An employment practice liability policy from Jewelers Mutual gives you access to the hotline and a risk management website with sample employee policies.
Access is available with the rest of our policyholder resources on JM University.