How to steer clear of legal landmines in the new year

Protecting your business and “not getting sued” are topics that come up again and again on this blog. Whether you’re an HR professional, business owner or people manager, you’re all too aware how one legal misstep or compliance lapse can lead to much bigger trouble down the road.

That’s why my interest was piqued when I ran across a spot-on article by Susan K. Lessack, a labor and employment law partner with Pepper Hamilton LLP.

In her “Top Ten Things to Do in 2010,” Lessack discusses some important actions for minimizing the risk of employment-related litigation in the new year. In a nutshell, she suggests that you:

1. Make sure your company has a pandemic plan
2. Check your policies to ensure they’re a friend of GINA
3. Be sure you comply with the regulations issued by the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) if you’re a federal government contractor
4. Ensure that disability leave policies do not contain inflexible provisions
5. Audit your wage-and-hour practices
6. Review relationships with independent contractors to evaluate whether those individuals are classified properly
7. Consider having a policy that advises employees who need a reasonable accommodation to request one
8. Review existing communication systems to ensure that employees have a way of raising concerns, and train manager to be effective in listening to and addressing those concerns
9. Develop a policy concerning employee use of social media, such as blogs, Facebook, MySpace and the like
10. Remember to document and communicate to employees any performance problems

Do yourself a favor and check out Lessack’s article for a quick snapshot of the best tactics for keeping your hands clean of any messy legal snafus. Many of the suggestions have been covered in this blog before, but they’re all points worth repeating. As are Lessack’s final words of advice for the litigation leery: “Remember that employees who feel they are treated fairly and with respect are less likely to bring claims against their employers.”

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