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Follow the law at work

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in Employment Law,Human Resources

Admit it: You view employment law as a pain in the neck. You dread meetings where lawyers and HR reps lecture about compliance issues ranging from interviewing and hiring job candidates to distinguishing between employees and independent contractors.

But according to Christopher Vrountas, a partner at Nelson Kinder Mosseau & Saturley, a law firm in Manchester, N.H. and Boston, managers face many legal risks at work. Scoffing at those risks won’t make them go away; indeed, you can face liability if you’re not careful.

Vrountas spoke to Managing People at Work about those risks:

MPAW: What are the most important legal issues for managers?

Vrountas: There are three general areas. First, there’s hiring and interviewing candidates in the pre-employment stage. Then there’s the discharge stage. Timing is everything so proper documenting is the key. Finally, there are relations with employees. This includes leave requests, ADA accommodation requests, and issues relating to harassment and discrimination.

MPAW: Regarding the ADA, how can managers tell if a worker has a disability?

Vrountas: You have to engage in an interactive process to determine disability and develop a reasonable accommodation for it. That means you need to find out the nature and extent of the disability. It’s a question of what the employee can do and can’t do.

MPAW: What’s a common mistake that managers make when dealing with a poor performer?

Vrountas: They don’t have a policy of regular performance reviews. If an employee isn’t performing well, say so and document it. Don’t tell a white lie.

MPAW: If you document well, is it easier to terminate an employee?

Vrountas: For terminating an employee, there’s the holy trinity of timing, consistency and documentation. In terms of timing, a court will look at what happened just before the discharge (such as a complaint filed by the employee). So act immediately if there’s a performance issue. Consistency means not treating one person differently than another. And always document in a timely manner.

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