From a practical perspective, employee conflicts or disputes are commonplace. And while many issues may not develop into legal problems for the company, several laws in Ohio are meant to protect employees and authorize awards of back pay, front pay, compensatory (emotional distress) damages, punitive damages, and attorney fees. Not only could your legal fees be significant, but you could be responsible for paying your employee’s attorney as well. A strong employee handbook with provisions applied uniformly to all employees can stop unnecessary escalation. Consider the following:
Did you know that your company could be required to provide an employee with medical leave even if you are a small employer not covered by the Family Medical Leave Act, and could potentially be subject to disability discrimination laws? Have you conducted an audit to ensure that all of your salaried employees actually meet the limited exemptions from overtime compensation contained in Ohio and Federal wage and hour laws? If not, you could be liable for double wages going back three years for an entire class of employees. Did you know that without a strong anti-harassment policy in place that provides the appropriate channels to report claims of harassment, an employee could sue for harassment based on events of which you were not aware? When an employee asks for an accommodation due to a disabling medical condition, does your policy call for an active discussion with the employee to determine whether the request is reasonable and can be met? Does your handbook give you the right to conduct post-accident or reasonable suspicion drug testing? If not, an employee who is injured while intoxicated could assert a workers’ compensation claim that can cost thousands in increased premiums. How about a social media policy – do you have employees who enjoy disparaging their bosses or the company on Facebook or Twitter?
These are frightening scenarios for any employer. Fortunately, implementing a solid handbook can help to prevent many of these issues. Considering the potential costs to the company of any of the above, the most important lesson for any business owner or human resources professional to learn is this: be proactive, not reactive.