Mathew Effland

Lawsuits may be inevitable in today’s litigious society, but losing them is not. Follow these 10 rules to prevent the most common employment-related lawsuits—or at least increase your chances of winning them.

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Ah, the “halo effect”—the practice of inflating an employee’s annual evaluation to increase overall morale and avoid the unpleasantness of telling underperforming workers what their weaknesses are. Too bad using the halo strategy both undermines performance and exposes employers to legal risks …

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Q. My department recently received a “litigation hold letter” from an attorney’s office. It instructed us not to delete or destroy any documents belonging to a former employee of ours … While we have a few documents related to this person’s employment, the significant majority of her personnel documents were destroyed through our normal record-retention process. Are we required to comply with this litigation hold letter …? If so, what can we do about the documents already deleted?

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Q. An employee whose doctor says she cannot stand for long periods of time recently requested an accommodation. The employee requested the opportunity to sit on a stool while she works. We are concerned that giving this employee a stool will prompt other employees to request seats of their own, even though they do not have the disability she does. Do we have to accommodate her request, knowing that it could lead to significant morale problems?

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The scene is, unfortunately, all too common: A disgruntled employee is terminated for poor performance. On his way out, he threatens his manager and co-workers. Fortunately, situations like this usually end with the terminated employee cooling off, filing for unemployment and getting on with his life. But what happens when the employee doesn’t let it go? …

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Q. Can we ask female applicants about lengthy gaps in their employment histories? I’m afraid that doing so might make it look as though we are digging into personal or family issues that could lead to a claim of gender bias …

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