Employment Law Basics

It seems that employment law issues grow increasingly complex each year, with employers constantly struggling to comply with state and federal laws and aiming to reduce claims of unfair employment practices. However, it is often the most basic issues that get employers in trouble with the law. Here are some of the basic issues of employment law that deserve every employer's attention:

Employee Handbooks

Employee handbooks are the cornerstone of the employer-employee relationship. Without an employee handbook, it's difficult to prove a policy was in place and understood by the staff.

Compensation Plans

Individual compensation plans should be documented and shared with the employee. This is particularly important with sales positions or other jobs where commissions or bonuses are part of the employee's pay plan.

Job Applications

Be sure your employment application does not conflict with current employment laws. Asking the wrong questions on the application can trigger liabilities for employers. Don't rely on resumes. Even if you accept resumes, be sure the applicant completes your fact-based application. Finally, be sure that each applicant signs the application, confirming that the information provided is accurate and complete.

Performance Evaluations

Establish a uniform system for evaluating employees' performance. These appraisals of performance can provide support for personnel actions (e.g. promotion, transfer, or demotion). They can also prove helpful in preventing claims of misclassification.

Exit Interviews

If at all possible, conduct exit interviews for all employees leaving your organization. Exit interviews may provide valuable information that can improve your ability to retain workers. Also, if a departing employee signs an exit interview document saying everything was fine, it will be difficult for him to claim otherwise in support of a later lawsuit.

Timekeeping

It's the employer's obligation to track hours worked, and these records are imperative to an employer's compliance with wage and hour laws. Be sure you understand wage and hour regulations specific to your state — for example, requirements for meal periods, jury duty, etc.

Terminations

Although most states recognize the concept of employment-at-will, federal and state laws prohibit discriminatory practices. Carefully weigh termination decisions to be sure that you can defend the decision to a third party. Specifically, you should document for your records the reasons for an employee's termination.

SESCO Management Consultants is available to assist with these workplace issues. You may contact us by phone at 423-764-4127 or by email at sesco@sescomgt.com .