Business Attorneys For Employee Issues
For many small and mid-sized businesses, employment practices present the biggest risk of dangerous litigation. Every day, small and mid-sized businesses go bankrupt defending lawsuits related to their employees. It is important to consult with an experienced small business attorney when you are drafting, altering, and implementing employment practices as well as when you are faced with defending a potential lawsuit.
Potential employee claims
Several federal and state laws protect employees from unfair employment practices. When employers violate these laws, employees file claims with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission (PHRC), or with state or federal courts. The most common potential claims an employer may face include:
- FLSA wage violations
- FMLA medical leave violations
- Sexual harassment
- Age, disability, race, and sex discrimination
- Under federal law, such claims are filed with the EEOC
- Under Pennsylvania state law, such claims are filed with the PHRC
In addition to these common claims, employers need to be aware of a large number of other possible claims. Make sure that you have an experienced business attorney to advise you regarding any potential pitfalls, especially before you take action against any employees who may be protected.
Keys to preventing and mitigating employment claims
There are certain actions that a wise and well-counseled employer can take to prevent or mitigate exposure from employment claims. Top suggestions include:
- Employee handbook – any Pennsylvania employer with 4 or more employees should have a custom employee handbook drafted and distributed to employees
- Training – managers and HR staff should be regularly trained to recognize legal issues
- Reporting systems – employees should be provided with official avenues to report suspected workplace policy violations so they can be investigated quickly and efficiently
- Records – detailed written records should be compiled as early as possible after a violation is reported or suspected
An employee claiming sexual harassment in the workplace is a special and very serious issue. It may be a good idea to separate the employee raising the issue from the accused harasser immediately while the matter is investigated. There are generally two types of sexual harassment: hostile work environment and quid pro quo.
Hostile work environment sexual harassment is when an employee suffers unwelcome conduct that interferes with the employee’s job performance. This form of sexual harassment creates an atmosphere that is intimidating, hostile, or offensive. It can be the result of multiple incidents or even just one incident if severe enough.
Quid pro quo harassment, on the other hand, is when an employee suffers unwelcome sexual conduct in order to gain some benefit or to avoid an adverse employment action. Examples of this include when a supervisor demands sexual favors in exchange for a promotion or when an employee is forced to choose between accepting unwanted sexual advances or losing his or her job.
Another opportunity for business liability arises when an employee is negligent. The doctrine of respondeat superior makes the employer liable for employee acts carried out in the course of employment. For this reason, it is very important that employees be properly screened, trained, and supervised. It is also important to know immediately when an employee may have committed some act that exposes the business to liability. All accidents should be reported and documented right away.
Kraemer, Manes & Associates LLC “KM&A” is a law firm serving all of Pennsylvania with our principal offices in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. Call KM&A in western Pennsylvania at 412-626-5626 or in eastern Pennsylvania at 610-616-5686. KM&A can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.