A human resources (HR) violation can end in more than just a slap on the wrist for employers. It could lead to harsh penalties, hefty fines, and lawsuits. As an employer, your first order of business should be to thoroughly understand your HR department’s obligations and responsibilities to workers based on federal and state laws. Then, you must take action to ensure the protection of employee rights. Learn from these common HR violations and take steps to prevent crossing the line at your company.
Some of the most serious violations are against the federal wage and hour laws. The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) outlines employers’ duties to pay employees overtime, offer minimum wage, keep employee records, and more. Obey all of these requirements by giving overtime pay to qualifying workers, paying at least the state’s minimum hourly wage, providing equal pay to men and women, and classifying employees correctly. Wage and hour law violations can get your company in serious trouble.
You might be in a hurry to fill that vacant spot at your company, but don’t rush through the hiring process. You must review the essential and non-essential functions of the job, and describe them accurately in the job description. Writing a solid job description from the start can help with legal matters later, such as figuring out if an injured employee can return to the same job position or fill a different one. Questions you ask your candidates during interviews can also keep you out of legal trouble. Refraining from asking if the candidate has children, for example, can help you avoid lawsuits regarding job applicant discrimination.
Your employee handbook should be a source of updated, recent information for your workers. The handbook should have all the current dos and don’ts of the job, as well as information such as how to report a workplace accident or harassment. If you don’t have these things in writing, you could encounter issues down the road. For example, an employee might not know where to go to report discrimination in the workplace and take the case to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) for review, all because you didn’t have clear instructions in your handbook.
The HR department must have the ability to train workers fully and effectively during the onboarding process. Employees should know what skills they need to succeed, how essential processes work, and how to be the most productive for the company. Bad employee training procedures can open your company to liability down the road, such as for accidents and injuries. For example, say you own a pizza company but fail to properly train delivery drivers. Something distracts one of your drivers and he rear-ends another vehicle. An investigation into your training processes could lead to your company’s liability for the accident.
It’s important to keep solid documentation of each employee’s performance, annual reviews, and any issues. If an employee violates any terms of employment or policies, record the infraction with a detailed description. Performance reviews and notes can help you later should you need to terminate or demote the employee. Without proof of a drop in performance or code violation, the employee could bring a claim against you for wrongful termination. Good documentation will safeguard you from legal backlash.
Part of the function of your HR department is to keep track of employee files. This includes employee work histories, personal information, leave forms, and performance evaluations. Having outdated, disorganized, or incomplete files can compromise the integrity of your operation. Keep binders with all I-9s that demonstrate employee work eligibility in the U.S. This can protect you from fines and trouble with the Immigration and Customers Enforcement (ICE). Keep your employees’ files in separate folders according to which are personal and which are related to their performance.
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