By: Walter J. Liszka, Esq.
As we enter and proceed through Calendar Year 2012, it may be time for some business resolutions for the success of your organization.
Very recently, I had the privilege of working with a client on a very complicated legal matter. One of the things that became very clear to both of us was that if there had been a little (or a lot) of planning prior to the legal dispute we now found ourselves faced with, both of us would have been much better off (and the client would have saved some money). Here are some areas of concern (and possibly for advance planning) for your business for 2012.
- The United States Department of Labor has ramped up enforcement and compliance proceedings with the Fair Labor Standards Act. They have increased the numbers of their field agents and are beginning to train them extensively with regard to the continuing conflict regarding the job classification issue of "employee and independent contractor." It is absolutely necessary that you review your business records to clearly establish that when you are employing an independent contractor that you can make this stand up. If your business does not take the appropriate steps to establish independent contractor status before an investigation, it may (will) cost your business a lot of money. In addition, review all of your job classifications and verify once more that they are exempt/non-exempt and make appropriate adjustments.
- Review and audit your employee personnel records filing system making absolutely certain that medical information is protected and filed separately from the rest of your personnel records. Also, make absolutely certain that all I-9 forms are properly filled out and readily available. The author strongly recommends that photocopies are made of all documents presented by employees to justify the information put on an I-9. If, in fact, you are making copies of the documents presented for I-9s, make absolutely certain that you use this procedure for all employees and not just a selected few. It is also strongly recommended that appropriate measures are taken to protect the information on the I-9 forms and your other employee records given the rapid increase of identity theft issues.
- Make absolutely certain that your policies and handbooks are current and in compliance with federal and/or state law. For example, make sure your policy on harassment includes harassment on all levels - sexual, racial, national origin, religious, age and any other areas protected by federal and/or state and/or local discrimination laws. Conduct employee training and make absolutely certain that you have a current signed form acknowledging receipt of the company's policies and handbook.
- Work on becoming and requiring your management team to become better managers of your employees. Good practices should include treating people as adults.
- Have minimum rules and guidelines and make sure that those rules are clear and consistently applied.
- Provide excellent training. Make sure employees have the necessary tools and training to perform their jobs and to improve job performance on a continuous basis. Do not assume that employees know what to do or how to do it.
- Encourage open communication. Share the goals of your company and how your employees can help you achieve those goals.
Make 2012 a successful year for both you and your employees.