The law increasingly holds managers personally liable for conduct “in the scope of employment” that violates Title VII, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, the ADA, the FMLA, the Fair Labor Standards Act and more. And since HR professionals almost always act on behalf of their employers' interests, they’re uniquely at risk of being personally sued.
Make sure that you know how to legally implement even the trickiest parts of the law. Get FMLA Intermittent Leave: 5 guidelines on managing intermittent leave and curbing leave abuse under the new FMLA regulationsHow big is the risk? Try six figures—or more.
“It can cost as much as $150,000 just to get a case dismissed,” Colorado attorney and employment practices consultant Denise Kaye said at SHRM's Annual Conference.
Anyone who commits an act that gives rise to an employment complaint or who is even tangentially involved can find himself or herself at risk of losing personal assets.
That’s the bad news. The worse news: The conduct doesn’t have to be intentional.
Kaye offered these tips on how to avoid personal liability:
1. Know the law. Federal and state anti-discrimination laws often specifically cite the circumstances in which individuals can be held personally liable for violations.
2. Educate decision-makers. Part of your HR role is making sure top brass know the law too.
Keep everyone in your organization who needs to know in the know with this FREE Special Report from Business Management Daily: FMLA Intermittent Leave: 5 guidelines on managing intermittent leave and curbing abuse under the new FMLA regulations3. Follow the law—not just your marching orders. Sure, you're a loyal employee, but you must ensure compliance with the law, even if top management wants you to cut corners. Remember, it’s potentially your money at risk.
4. Review and compare organizational policies and procedures. Make sure they align with what the law requires.
5. Implement organizational policies and procedures consistently. Nothing turns a disgruntled employee into a litigious one faster than the perception that he or she has been dealt with inequitably. Nothing makes a jury more likely to slap HR professionals with ruinous damage awards either.
6. Do not act in anger or retaliate. "When we see managers and HR people get in trouble with personal liability is when they let their frustration with an employee get the better of their business judgment," said Kaye.
One of the biggest employer complaints about the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is the productivity problems caused by employees’ use—and abuse—of FMLA intermittent leave.
The problem: Employees with chronic health problems often take FMLA leave in short increments of an hour or less. Recently, the Department of Labor (DOL) took a big step to help minimize workplace disruptions due to unscheduled FMLA absences.
In its new FMLA regulations, the DOL says that, in most cases, employees who take FMLA intermittent leave must follow their employers’ call-in procedures for reporting an absence, unless there are unusual circumstances.
In light of the new FMLA regulations, make sure you amend your organization’s policies, update your employee handbook and revisit how you track FMLA intermittent leave.
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