As longtime employment attorneys in California, we know that corporations can seem blind with greed, cutting corners on pay, discriminating and exploiting where it suits them. These things can be true, but it’s also true that most companies are comprised of individuals – including managers, supervisors and owners – who want to do the right thing, but find avoiding California employment lawsuits can be a significant challenge.
Large companies are savvy enough to have lawyers on retainer to advise them of ever-changing employment expectations. However, small- and mid-sized companies may not have those kind of resources.
To avoid the landmine of potential employment litigation and retain your competitive advantage, our Orange County employment attorneys have some general tips for consideration. Legal advice specific to your circumstances should be sought from an experienced labor law attorney who can weigh the unique fact pattern of your company/case.
What Employers Can Do to Reduce the Odds of Employment Litigation
Improve the Ease of Employee Complaints. The sooner you can learn of a worker’s complaint, the better. It’s better to know of a problem so you can fix it, which is why employees need more than a single, rigid option in which to file a complaint. This way, supervisors can’t hide problems from upper management or human resources. Having a chain of command is wise, but also a direct line to upper management is wise to promote transparency and accountability. A complaint email address or hotline might help to create a paper trial so that issues can be reported directly.
- Document deficiencies in performance. When we represent workers in court, one of the things that can weigh a case in our favor is that disciplinary action was sudden, bolstering evidence that the cause was discriminatory in nature. Evidence to that end may be weakened if performance issues are meticulously documented. Write-ups won’t wholly eliminate evidence that the cause for disciplinary action was discriminatory and thus illegal, but they can make the case more challenging.
- Be proactive. Know how to respond to a problem, and understand how that response – or lack thereof – will be scrutinized. This might mean simply documenting. It could mean launching an investigation or taking some disciplinary action.
- Train staff on discrimination. Many companies resist expenditures for training because it can be costly – not just the training itself but the loss of productivity. But when you train well the supervisors who deal with the daily complaints, teach them how to identify problems and handle them proactively and properly, it may save you a good deal of legal trouble later.
- Create an employee handbook that serves as a key tool for management and workers. Employee handbooks are important because they clearly communicate the business’s expectations of workers and outline what rights workers have and how complaints should be handled. Ideally, these documents address everything from the company’s rules to how it deals with sexual harassment. The best handbooks are simple, straight-forward and up-to-date. Employees should read it – and sign a document indicating they have so there is no question about whether they were aware of the policies/expectations/consequences, etc.
- Avoid making exceptions for anyone. Fair employers apply the rules consistently. Exceptions made for some workers – whether for assignments, awards, promotions, vacation or sick leave, pay or adverse employment actions – are often the basis for employment lawsuits.
- Be slow to fire your workers. Sometimes termination can’t be avoided, but know that losing a job can be a life-altering event for some people, and it can leave them struggling without a paycheck and wounded pride. It can also leave people feeling they have been wronged, and that’s where most Los Angeles employment lawsuits start. If your company frequently rushes to judgment in taking adverse employment actions, you will soon find it can be quite expensive.
Contact the employment attorneys at Nassiri Law Group, practicing in Orange County, Riverside and Los Angeles. Call 949.375.4734.
Resources for Employers, California Department of Fair Employment and Housing