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July 2017 Archives

Preparing for a consultation with a business law attorney

One of the best pieces of advice for new business owners in Pennsylvania is to seek help from those more experienced. This can mean surrounding yourself with successful owners that you respect, but should also include consulting legal experts who have helped others create and guide their companies. We at Kisner Law Firm have been strategically consulting business owners and are prepared to help you overcome obstacles that you may encounter.

If you have an appointment already made, there are certain pieces of information that are important to bring to the consultation. You will need to provide information about your operations, including what products or services you will offer and what licenses will be required for those, as well as any state or federal regulations that may apply to your business. You should also be prepared to discuss employees, equipment needs, contracts, financing and large purchases that are expected.

You will also need to explain structure of your company. This includes the number of owners that will be involved and what their contributions and level of activity will be, how profits and responsibilities will be divided, and what the financial positions of the owners will be. This information will be crucial in determining the type of entity that you need to create.

Once these facts are presented, you can make decisions such as the type of insurance that will be best, your employee situation and the most optimal way to minimize tax liability. You can focus your decisions on the goals that you have for your company now as well as in the future. For more information on preparing for your consultation, please visit our web page.

How do I handle employee conflicts in my business?

As a Pennsylvania employer, planning for what could happen in the future is always a good idea to protect your business. One such plan you need is how to handle employment disputes. Situations can vary, so your approach should be based on the situation at hand. For example, if the conflict is between two employees, it should be handled differently than conflict between you and an employee. In addition, harassment or discrimination issues should be handled differently than other employment disputes.

In most non-discrimination and harassment conflicts, according to the Balance, you should approach employee conflict in a neutral way. You do not want to come across as favoring one person over another. Make it clear you are not going to allow yelling or fighting during the mediation process. You should encourage both people to explain their side of the issue. Encourage them to calmly discuss what happened and what they would like to do to resolve it.

If the matter involves harassment or discrimination you need to follow your handbook guidelines, this includes making reporting and investigation as confidential as possible and ensuring there is no retaliation against a reporting or cooperating employee.  If you don't have a handbook policy you should follow government guidelines and consult an attorney.

A legal representative or someone from human resources should sit in on the meeting. Somone who would best understand the policies and other regulations that may come into play and be able to provide valuable input.

You should never avoid or ignore a conflict in your workplace. It is disruptive to everyone. Even if only two people are actively involved in the situation, others will still take notice and it could affect productivity in the whole company. Always address the situation as soon as you become aware of it. 

The attorneys at Kisner Law Firm can review and revise handbook policies to help prevent employee conflicts, as well as providing advice when such conflicts do arise.

EEOC sues Time Warner, Charter for firing disabled worker

On July 6, 2017, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced that they would be suing Time Warner Cable and Charter Communications. The two cable companies, which recently merged under the brand Spectrum, are being sued for firing a disabled employee.

The employee alleges that her disability was not accommodated and that she was fired after the company learned about her condition.

This case serves as a reminder that no matter how big or small your business may be, there's always the risk of a discrimination lawsuit. These charges may emerge from the EEOC (15 or more employees) or the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission (4 or more employees).

How to protect your business from charges of disability discrimination

Facing discrimination charges from either the EEOC or the PHRC can be intimidating for any business. There are things you can do to better protect yourself and your business from a discrimination lawsuit.

  • Rethink your interview questions: Employers can't ask employees about their medical history or disabilities before making an offer. Rather than asking about someone's physical limitations, reframe questions to ask about an applicant's abilities to perform the essential functions of the role they're interviewing for.
  • Provide reasonable accommodations: Employers need to provide reasonable accommodations for an employee with a disability. The exception to this rule if it would impose a significant difficulty or expense on the employer. Flexible working hours or making the workplace more accessible for wheelchairs are common accommodations you may need to make.
  • Document everything: If an employee is simply not performing the essential functions of the task, then you may ultimately find it necessary to terminate employment. Documenting an employee's poor performance strengthens your credibility that the employee was fired due to performance, not because of a disability.

Just because your business was charged by the EEOC doesn't automatically mean you'll face disciplinary consequences. Taking these charges seriously and proactively dealing with them will help your business overcome these disputes.

If you have received a charge from the EEOC or the PHRC the attorneys at Kisner Law Firm can assist in responding to the charge and explain the investigation process.  Our attorneys are also experienced in counseling management to develop best practices to comply with accomodation requirements. 

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Kisner Law Firm, LLC
Gulf Tower
707 Grant St., Suite 2646
Pittsburgh, PA 15219
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Phone: 412-208-4263
Fax: 412-235-6704

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