As sure as the calendar turns to a new year, there is no doubt that employers will see new employment discrimination charges and employment lawsuits filed. So now is a good time for a check-up to see if you are well-positioned to minimize the risks of such claims in 2018. Here are three quick, general pointers:
- Clear Expectations. We’ve all seen it, in one form or another – the employee who, when faced with termination, will say: “I didn’t know that could get me fired!” While policies and procedures can’t cover every conceivable workplace scenario, you can ensure that your bright-line rules are in place, updated as necessary, and that employees have acknowledged that they have received and read them.
- Coaching and Counseling. Yes, at-will employment means an employee can be fired for any reason or no reason (so long as it is not an illegal reason). And certainly there are instances that call for immediate termination of employment – theft, physical fights or threats of violence, serious safety lapses that harm or nearly harm employees or customers, and similar breaches of “zero tolerance” policies. But outside of such clear-cut terminable offenses, the use of coaching and counseling can improve employee performance (hopefully) and serve as notice to employees that they must meet expectations or face further consequences.
- Consistent Enforcement. Life isn’t fair, yet the absence of perceived “fairness” may cause employees to complain. If you have a well-publicized and trusted internal complaint system, perhaps concerns will be raised first through that process. But unfairness – particularly if an employee sees it as tied to race, gender or other protected characteristics – can lead to charges filed with outside agencies or claims filed in court for wrongful termination.