Lawsuits seem to happen so easily these days that it’s a wonder we don’t all walk around with a fear of them. Almost as if you can add “lawsuits” to the classic “death and taxes” adage. But, of course, we know within our rational selves that lawsuits aren’t a certainty. While it’s alarmingly easy to start one, it’s also fairly easy to avoid one.
One of the most common types of lawsuit is that of an employee against an employer. (The other way round does sometimes happen, but it’s usually for boring, unsensational reasons. And it’s not that common.) When you read about these types of things, it sometimes seems like it was the easiest thing in the world for the employer to have avoided in the first place.
Getting sued isn’t fun. Not that I’ve ever been sued, but I’m pretty sure I can make that statement with some confidence. If you want to avoid being sued at work, then follow this advice. It’s worked for me so far, anyway.
Document everything and keep those documents safe
Every single business transaction should be kept in writing. Any payments you make to your employee must be noted with banks. Any promises of payment must be recorded in emails. Don’t leave contracts and other agreements as just “spoken”. A “gentleman’s agreement” is a fool’s method.
And, of course, if you’ve promised to do something in writing, make sure you do it. Keep all your documents secure and stored in places where they’ll be safe but easy for you to find. Learn more about keeping business documents safe at www.sohodox.com.
Make sure hazards are clearly marked
Someone’s spilled a little coffee in the lobby. That’s fine; it’s small, and it’ll be cleaned up soon. But here comes Dave from accounting. He’s assuming it’s safe to walk here because there’s no sign around saying it’s not. He slips on the coffee spillage, hits his head, and bam. He’s got a strong case for a lawsuit.
If there are any hazards whatsoever, they should be clearly marked. Where was the wet floor sign in that situation? If there’s any technology in the workplace that might be dangerous to use, make sure it’s appropriately labeled. You can easily get signs and printing supplies from places like www.creativesafetysupply.com, so you have little excuse!
Keep it appropriate
Every time I read about someone getting sued for harassment or discriminatory jokes, I feel a surge of mixed emotions. The feminist, socially-conscious side of me giggles with glee to see someone getting their just desserts. But I also despair. This behavior is extremely damaging. How hard is it to just be nice? To be understanding, to respect boundaries?
In the modern office, people do come in expecting a certain degree of irreverent humor. But there’s a difference between good-natured risqué jokes and just being mean or slimy. So here’s a rundown of what should be obvious advice. Don’t go around telling racist or sexist jokes. Don’t distract employees from their work to tell lewd stories. And don’t assume you can touch anyone in the office in an affectionate way! Just be nice. And if someone comes to you with a complaint about this behavior from another employee, take it seriously. www.humanresources.about.com has a great article about dealing with that particular situation.