Legal Matters: 9 Employment Law Landmines
In the U.S., employment regulation and litigation have a significant impact on the way companies, including not-for-profit companies (NFPs) operate. Federal, state, and local laws govern just about every phase of employment, and NFPs must comply with these laws in the same way as for-profit companies. In addition, NFPs are equally subject to the same types of litigation and potential jury verdicts as for-profit companies. Here are a few steps you can take to reduce the risk of litigation:
1. Have an employee handbook that identifies and communicates all of your employment-related policies. This handbook should be prepared with the assistance of an attorney or, at minimum, reviewed by a qualified attorney.
2. Prepare and adopt an ethics policy that applies to all areas of employment, including hiring, firing, promotions and assignments, and bases employment only on merit, qualifications and competence. This policy also should state that the company will comply with laws pertaining to fair employment practices and that no employee or applicant for employment will be discriminated against because of race, age, sex, religion, color, national origin or ancestry, disability, sexual orientation, marital status, citizenship status or other protected status under federal, state or local law. This policy also should state that the company provides an environment that is free of unlawful harassment of any kind, and on any basis prohibited by law.
The policy further should state that conduct such as making unwelcome advances, offensive language, requests for sexual favors, jokes or other verbal, graphic or physical conduct relating to an employee's race, sex, religion, color, national origin or ancestry, age, disability, sexual orientation, marital status, citizenship status, status as a veteran, genetic information or any other factor protected by law, whether implied or explicit, will be viewed as harassment.
3. Make sure you properly document any employee evaluation, especially if discipline is warranted.