10 Ways Managers Get into Legal Trouble

Category: Employment Law
Posted: 08-29-2012 09:14 PM
Views: 1391
Synopsis:

Being a manager means traversing a legal minefield on a daily basis.  There are a myriad of ways managers can get tripped up and find themselves in court - or worse - arrested or fired.  The best way to prepare your managers is to provide them with employment law training.  The following are 10 of the most common ways a manager can make legal mistakes on the job.

Being a manager means traversing a legal minefield on a daily basis.  There are a myriad of ways managers can get tripped up and find themselves in court - or worse - arrested or fired.  The best way to prepare your managers is to provide them with employment law training.  The following are 10 of the most common ways a manager can make legal mistakes on the job.

1.  Not properly documenting discipline.  The proper documentation of discipline is imperative to protecting an organization from wrongful termination lawsuits.  There needs to be a well documented account of the steps taken to correct the disciplinary problems.  In addition, without documentation an employee can sue for receiving unfair treatment when they are passed over for promotions or are demoted or reassigned.

2.  Engaging in harassment.  Studies show that many managers who engage in harassment don't even know they are doing it.  Harassment is much more subtle these days and encompasses much more than just sexual harassment.  Jokes or comments where the subject is gender, national origin, race, religion, sexual orientation, age or disability should be avoided at all costs. 

3.  Ignoring harassment.  One of the most important jobs of a manager is to ensure that their employees are given a safe and respectful place to work.  If you ignore off color jokes, inappropriate comments and bullying you are setting yourself up for a lawsuit.  Plus, employees are more productive, efficient and just plain happier in a harassment-free workplace.  Make sure that your organization has a comprehensive harassment training program for managers and all other employees.

4.  Illegal interviewing.  Did you know that you can't ask a candidate if they are married, have children or are pregnant in an interview?  Discrimination lawsuits brought about by poor interviewing questions are common.  Make sure that the questions you ask are job related only.  Behavioral interviewing programs are the best for avoiding illegal questions because they base questions on past performance only.

5.  Unfair or inconsistent treatment of employees.  Managers need to be extremely careful to treat everyone equally.  Many managers fall into the trap of treating employees they dislike unfairly or by giving employees they do like an unfair advantage.  They might not even know they are doing it.

6.  Sending confidential information via email.  Email is an incredibly efficient way to communicate, however anything private or confidential should be kept off of email.  Email is permanent and messages can be retrieved to aid in or justify a lawsuit.

7.  Inflating performance appraisals.  Many managers have a difficult time giving poor performance reviews.  They will give average or good marks to a poorly performing employee to avoid confrontation or conflict.   This will come back to haunt them when they need to prove that an employee performance caused a termination, a demotion or any other disciplinary action due to performance.

8.  Understanding the FMLA, FLSA and ADA thoroughly.  Federal laws are serious business.  Make sure that all of your managers understand them and follow them.  The FMLA allows for medical leave in the case of an emergency without loss of job or health insurance.  The FLSA contains the federal minimum wage, overtime pay laws and child labor laws and the ADA contains all of the federal laws pertaining to employees with disabilities.

9.  Engaging in insider trading.  Securities fraud will send a manager directly to prison.  Using confidential company information to make a securities purchase decision is illegal.  It's also illegal to sell or give that information to others who engage in the purchase of securities with that information.

10.  Poorly designed terminations.  The process of terminating an employee needs to be well planned, well documented and done with an excess of respect and care.  An employee who is getting terminated must given as much dignity as possible under the situation.  It's an emotional time and how they are treated could very well determine if the employee pursues a lawsuit in regards to the termination.  Terminations should never be done in anger or without planning.  There needs to be a well-documented paper trail to ensure that the termination will be deemed as justified in the courts.

Legal training for managers should be an imperative in every workplace.  Without it, a day in court could be in your organization's future.

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