As the New Year begins, here are four suggestions for New Year resolutions to help reduce the risk of employment law liability during the coming year.
1. Prepare job descriptions for every position in your organization. The job description is the most important document in an employee’s personnel file. It provides the basis for evaluation of performance. It is the foundation for determining disability and workers compensation issues. To get started, take a look at the MS Word templates for job descriptions on the Microsoft website.
2. Review the job duties of every exempt employee. In recent years, the greatest exposure to liability for employers has been in wage and hour class actions. The most important factor in the multi-million dollar verdicts and settlements is misclassification of nonexempt employees as exempt. You must decide whether or not to treat employees as exempt based on actual job duties not on whether they are paid a salary or by job title. If you need an incentive, the December 26, 2008 issue of “Daily Journal Verdicts and Settlements” reports the following recent settlements: $21 million by Edward D. Jones & Co., $11.2 million by SBC and AT&T, $8.5 million by Unisource, $5.4 million by Kaiser, $2.25 million by EMC and Legato Systems, $1.3 million by Valley Farm Transport, and $900,000 by E-Trade Securities. We discussed wage and hour compliance in a June 29, 2008 post to this blog.
3. Review changes to the FMLA. Congress and the Department of Labor made important changes to the Family and Medical Leave Act rules last year. There is a new form of leave for members of military families, and there are changes to the existing regulations. We discussed these changes in a December 9, 2008 post to this blog, with links to the new rules.
4. Make sure that you are complying with immigration laws. All indications are that the federal government will continue to insist on strict compliance with the laws that prohibit employment of workers who lack authorization to work in the United States. If you knowingly employ someone who lacks such authorization, you have committed a federal crime. To assure that your workplace is in compliance, follow the rules for the I-9 Form. We discussed immigration compliance in an August 3, 2009 post to this blog.