In response to the increasing trend of lawsuits by employees against employers, HR Specialist has unveiled its list of the 12 most common mistakes made by managers that can result in litigation. The list comes at a time of growing concern among HR professionals about the increasing risk and complexity of federal and state employment laws. According to a new survey conducted by HR Specialist, HR professionals say that “staying abreast of employment laws and regulations” is their biggest challenge of the workday.
The Dirty Dozen
Dubbed the “Dirty Dozen,” these 12 common mistakes cited by HR Specialist are designed as a checklist that organizations can use to shore up their own employment-law defense strategy. As HR Specialist editor Patrick DiDomenico notes, “Most lawsuits are NOT triggered by great injustices. Instead, simple management mistakes and perceived slights start the snowball of discontent rolling downhill toward the courtroom.”
The 12 most common mistakes by managers include:
- Sloppy documentation. Managers should speak and write (even in e-mail) as if their comments would be examined by a jury some day.
- Not knowing their company’s policies, procedures. When managers admit ignorance to a court, juries typically view that as purposeful, not forgetful.
- Giving inflated appraisals during performance reviews. If a manager later cites “poor performance” for an employee’s termination, overly positive appraisals can create a big credibility gap.
- Shrugging off employees’ complaints. Comments like, “Boys will be boys,” won’t play well with a jury.
- Interview errors (e.g., questions about age, race, religion, political affiliation). Hiring managers should stay away from any question that doesn’t focus on this central issue: How well would this person perform on the job?
- Changing their reasoning for a firing or discipline. Be straight with employees. Don’t sugarcoat your comments.
- “Papering” an employee’s file. Courts will see through a rush of disciplinary actions cited in the days before a termination.
- Being rude or mean-spirited. Even if a company puts forth a great legal defense, it will face an uphill battle in court if the key supervisor comes across as rude or insensitive.
- Careless and inconsistent responses to federal agencies. Position statements filed with the EEOC or state agency should always tell a consistent story.
- Lack of legal knowledge. Juries will expect managers to stay abreast of employment-law changes.
- Dictating accommodations for disabled workers. Companies must go through a give-and-take process to find “reasonable” workplace accommodations for disabled employees. Managers too often try to dictate the solution.
- Firing employees too fast. Managers who fire without first trying to improve the worker’s performance will appear insensitive and potentially discriminatory in court.
The release of the Dirty Dozen list coincides with the launch of the new theHRSpecialist.com, a one-stop resource for HR professionals and employers. The new site includes information and advice on topics ranging from recruiting and motivating employees to protecting companies in today’s lawsuit-happy environment. The site offers timely advice-based articles on the important HR issues of the day, plus thousands of archived articles, sample employment policies, white papers and our unique collection of “Memos to Managers,” which HR professionals can copy and send directly to employees.
“HR professionals have never been more valuable to the corporate world than they are today,” said Anniken Davenport, Esq., editor of The HR Specialist: Employment Law newsletter. “By being proactive, they can stop lawsuits before they’re ever filed. That’s where the advice and information in the new HR Specialist web site proves most valuable.”
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