Human Resources Mistakes that could Land You in Court

12 Human Resources Mistakes that could Land You in Court

– adaption from The HR Specialist, Business Management Daily, March 4, 2019

It doesn’t take much to trigger a lawsuit. Even the simplest management mistake could send an employee off to see a lawyer. And whether you win or lose a suit, you’re out time and money.

1. Sloppy documentation. Most discrimination cases aren’t won with “smoking gun” evidence. They’re proven circumstantially, often through documents or statements made by managers. Always speak and write as if your comments will be held up to a jury someday.

2. Interview errors. It may be easy to answer the question, “Why did you hire that person?” But managers often run into trouble when they have to answer, “Why did you reject certain other candidates?” Rejection decisions typically aren’t well-documented, and the decision-maker may not recall the reasons later. Plus, any hint of discrimination based on race, age, religion, etc. is automatic trouble.

3. Not knowing policies or procedures. Courts expect supervisors to know their organization’s policies and procedures. If a manager admits ignorance, legal experts say juries typically view that as purposeful, not forgetfulness. That’s why it’s vital to make sure you understand company policies.

4. Changing your story. If an organization changes its reasoning for making an adverse employment decision (firing, discipline, demotion, etc.) in midstream, its credibility is shot. Be straight with employees from the start about reasons for discipline.

5. “Papering” an employee’s file. Most managers hear the mantra, “Document, document, document.” But it’s possible to over-document, especially right before a firing. Courts will be able to see through a rush of disciplinary actions cited in the days before a termination.

6. Inflated appraisals. Performance reviews are one of the most important forms of documentation, yet managers sometimes inflate ratings. If a manager later tries to cite “poor performance” for that same person’s termination or demotion, those overly positive appraisals create a heap of credibility concerns.

7. Being rude, mean-spirited. An organization can have the best case in the world, but if the key supervisor comes across as rude, insensitive and mean, the attorney’s job of selling the case to the jury will be much harder.

8. Careless statements to feds. When responding to charges filed with the EEOC or state agencies, employers often have to submit position statements. You can bet the employee’s attorney will review your statements, particularly affidavits, and introduce them at trial, especially if your story has changed.

9. Shrugging off complaints. Turning a blind eye to any employees’ complaints of unfairness or perceived illegal actions is a guaranteed credibility buster. Comments like “I’m not a baby-sitter” or “boys will be boys” will hurt employee morale and jeopardize your standing in court.

10. Lack of legal knowledge. Juries will expect – and the plaintiff’s lawyer will encourage them to expect – that employers stay abreast of developments in employment law.

11. Dictating accommodations. Under federal law, employers must make “reasonable” workplace changes to accommodate an employee’s disability. How to choose those accommodations? It must be a give-and-take process to reach a solution, the law says. Managers too often try to dictate the solution.

12. Firing employees too fast. Managers who fire without first trying to improve the worker’s performance will appear insensitive and potentially discriminatory in court. Conversely, managers who try to improve things before resorting to firing will stand a better chance of avoiding a lawsuit.

If you’re not 100% certain your HR procedures will keep you out of court, contact us here today! We can provide a full audit of your procedures and for a surprisingly affordable cost that just may save you thousands. The consultation is always free and there is never any sales pressure.

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