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Top Five Things Managers & Owners Need to Know about Employment Law

September 7, 2017

Employment law is a constantly changing environment that can be overwhelming for owners and managers trying to run a business, let alone being experts on a complicated (and conflicted) web of federal and state laws. Read on for a few key takeaways shared at a recent Greater Des Moines Partnership event geared towards small businesses:

A Good Employment Manual is Worth its Weight in Gold

Businesses can avoid headaches with employees by developing and regularly updating an employee manual. A good employee manual becomes a reference book to ensure consistent treatment of employees and for HR basics and benefits.

Catch Employees Doing a Good Job (and Not-So-Good As Well)

Praise your employees for doing their job and going over and above the expectations. Be sure to put a note of commendation in their file. On the flip side, be ready to have conversations with employees needing help with their performance and document objective steps necessary to improve performance.

Become a Great Writer with an Eye for Detail

A saving grace for an attorney and the business they represent is clear, concise and easy-to-understand documentation about employees. Formal practices for recruiting, interviewing, performance appraisal and documentation all play a vital role in developing employees and protecting the business from disgruntled former employees.

Top Five Things Small Businesses Need to Know About Employment Law

Know Your ABC’s

Managers or owners in charge of employees need to have a handle on federal laws and their state counterparts. An example of a conflict is the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) which prohibits discrimination and harassment against employees or applicants over age 40 and retaliation. Did you know that in Iowa there is no age restriction, so an 18-year old can file an ADEA claim?

An Ounce of Prevention Saves Pounds of Time and Money

Start every day and your hiring process on the right foot with consistency. It is okay to be boring with standard advertisements, application forms, statements, releases, conversations, performance records and documents. Consistency builds a culture of fair and equal treatment of employees, enhances employee satisfaction, lessens the likelihood and risk of claims and enforcement of good practices.

Heed the Squeaky Wheel

Quick action and adherence to the business’s employee manual policies and complaint procedure is key to limiting liability. Investigate all complaints (no matter how small, like someone being loud in the cubicle or habitually late), act on founded complaints and document. Don’t have a complaint policy or procedure? Consult your lawyer to develop one that fits your business.

Don’t Be Caught Napping — If You Snooze, You Lose

What should you do when a regulatory agency shows up at your door? Seek legal counsel to understand your rights and get details on what the enforcement officials are looking for. Be prepared with documentation and files, but make sure any statement is approved by your attorney as well.

We Live in Uncertain Times

Regulatory change and enforcement are something that we watch daily as employment attorneys so we can keep our clients compliant. A recent regulation that we want to alert businesses to is that nursing mother/lactation rooms are mandatory for all employers, including small employers unless it would be an unreasonable hardship for the small employer to provide one.

In closing, employers — even small businesses — need to be proactive and vigilant when it comes to employment law in order to protect their business.

Discover more legal resources, as well as staffing and hiring information for your small business in The Partnership’s Small Business Resources Hub or sign up for the Small Business Resources newsletter and stay connected for information about upcoming events, other resources and the latest announcements in the small business community in Greater Des Moines (DSM).