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July 2015 Archives

Understanding your employees' rights

For many people, the dream of owning a business started when they were young. Perhaps they opened a lemonade stand as a child or were the ones who always wanted to be in charge of projects in school. Or they just knew they didn't want to work for someone else, punching the clock and bringing home a paycheck every Friday. Those who dream of these things often see visions in their heads of creating a cool brand, a fun logo and renting a bustling office space where everyone works busily and treats everyone else like family.

While that dream can be a reality, many business owners spend their time attending to minutia that have nothing to do with their vision. Things like instituting conduct policies, overseeing payroll and dealing with squabbles get in the way of the really fun stuff most of the time. Thankfully, there are ways to reduce those joy-killers.

It starts with understanding the type of environment you need to create as a business owner; an environment free from discrimination, safety hazards and vengeful management. With that in mind, let's look at some of the basic rights you must give your employees:

  • It must be free from harassment and discrimination. This isn't just the way you treat them, it applies to the ways employees treat one another as well.
  • It must be free from hazardous conditions and potentially dangerous substances.
  • Employees must feel that they have the right to file a complaint without fear of retaliation.
  • Workers must be paid a fair salary for the work they perform.

Of course, creating and fostering an environment that meets all these criteria is a tall order and, even in the best conditions, you will have issues. That's why it's considered a good idea to contract an employment law attorney to help in these matters.

Avoiding harassment and discrimination claims (continued)

Last week on this blog, we started a discussion on ways to create a workplace that keeps employees safe from discrimination and harassment and keeps the employer safe from claims that could spell the end of his or her company. As it's an incredibly broad subject, this week we will continue in the same vein and offer even more for keeping employees healthy and happy:

  • When an incident or a complaint does happen, make sure you keep everyone's confidentiality as a high priority. Discretion is the better part of valor and that's never truer than when dealing with issues like these. The urge to gossip or complain to a co-worker or co-owner can be strong, but avoid it at all costs.
  • Employees are within their legal rights when they get help from an employee rights commission or a state or federal agency. Even if you see it as a threat, trying to get in the way of it will only cause you more grief.
  • Never use retaliatory actions like firing an employee, demoting an employee or taking benefits away from an employee. Those types of actions are never perceived well and can land you in hot water.
  • For the accused, make sure that the punishment fits the crime. Don't be too lax, but don't overreact as well. It may take Solomon-like wisdom to do so, but those are the perils of running a business.

If you feel like you're in over your head, you may want to consider hiring an employment law attorney. He or she knows how to navigate these choppy waters and can help you handle the situation appropriately or represent you if needed.

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Pittsburgh, PA 15219
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