Avoidable hiring and firing mistakes cost the average employer hundreds of thousands of dollars a year. In Louisiana, like other states, the lawsuits that can result from those mistakes erode the bottom line. They cause a domino effect that costs employers valuable time, energy and money. They lower employee morale.
Whether your company is in its infancy or a trailblazer, a little common sense can help prevent lawsuits from invading your workplace and harming it.
1. Hire who you consider, consider who you hire
Hiring a warm body to get the job done—instead of someone who can really do the job—will almost always be catastrophic. To avoid impending disaster, follow these key rules:
- Do not rush through the application process
- Always follow up on references
- Question inconsistencies
- Do not gloss over a lack of qualifications.
Listen to your instincts. If you sense a problem, chances are good that that very problem may be the one that gets your company into legal trouble later on.
2. Consistent or inconsistent? That is the question
Treat employees consistently in three key areas: discipline, compensation and termination. Inconsistent treatment in those areas angers employees. Angry employees sue their employers. Period.
Sometimes employers need to be flexible. But that flexibility can result in inconsistency. Remember: Reasonable, explainable inconsistency is acceptable; arbitrary inconsistency is not.
3. Remember the Golden Rule: ‘Do unto others…’
No one wants to be embarrassed or belittled in front of co-workers; nor do they want their shortcomings or misconduct shared with the world. Although this should be obvious, employment law cases prove time and time again that it is not.
Like inconsistencies in the workplace, behavior that embarrasses or diminishes makes employees angry. Simply put, if you wouldn’t want someone to know it about you or do it to you, then don’t say it or do it yourself.
4. “Do as I say, not as I do” does not work for children—and it won’t work for employees
Require all employees to follow rules of conduct, even managers. Your managers should set the standards and abide by them. Workplace rules should not be unreasonable and should not change depending on who is breaking them or enforcing them. Most employees will appreciate it if you set rules in the beginning and effectively communicate them to staff. And that means most will abide by the rules.
5. Pay your former employees quickly
Unlike some states, Louisiana has a statute that requires employers to pay former employees all earned, unpaid wages by the next regular payday. That time cannot exceed 15 days from the date of the discharge or termination. If an employee sends a written demand for payment of his or her final wages, the employer must pay all wages owed to the employee on a timely basis or be subject to a penalty that may be imposed by a court.
Because it is unique to this state, this rule can catch some employers off guard and lead to substantial penalties and costs. Knowing and abiding by this statute is the right thing to do and can save an employer time and money in the long run.
The key is to use common sense, treat people like you want to be treated and be a fair and equitable employer. If you adhere to those principles, you will ultimately be able to concentrate more on building your business—and less on worrying whether lawsuit-minded employees will contaminate the culture of your company.
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