Tips to Avoid Legal Issues with Employees
The Honorable Denny Chin, former U.S. District Court Judge, and now Court ofÂ Appeals judge, made his remarks at a Labor and Employment Law Seminar put on by attorneys in New York City.
Here are Judge Chin’s tips to avoid seeing him in his court:
- Don’t Discriminate. Know the rules and make sure your decisions are based on legal business reasons.
- Supervise your supervisors. Communicate with them, train them, watch them, and deal with infractions.
- Be brutally honest with employees. Terminated employees who believe that they had no warning that their work was substandard are angry and juries are sympathetic. If you withhold information, you will pay.
- Grade low. If a “poor” performance rating follows a string of “high” ratings, it looks suspicious.
- Never say or write anything you will regret. One bad sentence in an otherwise routine communication will catch the jury’s attention. Also, remember that many employees will surreptitiously record conversations.
- Make a record, but not unfairly. If you have written no memos for years, and then you write a sudden string of memos right after the employee makes a complaint, the jury will construe a case of discrimination.
- Don’t let a weak discrimination case become a strong retaliation case. Remember that employees have a right to make complaints without retaliation. All too often the discrimination case is thrown out but the retaliation case sticks.
- Be fair even if you don’t have to as a matter of law. Staying out of court – which is an HR priority is a challenge given the change in the laws, stretched budgets, and over-worked people.