You may have noticed an increased number of articles in the local and national media about employment issues. Two recent articles—one in the New York Times and one in the Sacramento Business Journal—both discussed employment litigation and situations where employers create problems for themselves.
Why is this becoming such a prevalent issue? The short answer is this: the cost of employment litigation continues to increase, as does the number of employment laws and employment-related lawsuits.
Identifying the Issues
On August 20th, 2014, the Sacramento Employer Advisory Council (SEAC) sponsored a workshop on leave accommodations and wage/hour issues. Employment attorneys Beth West and Chuck Post of the Sacramento-based Weintraub Law Group offered a thorough review of current trends, issues, and new laws that affect employers of all sizes. The goal was to help employers better understand how to prevent employment complications.
As a Risk Insurance Advisor, the SEAC workshop was a reminder of how important it is to have a relationship with an HR professional. I decided to get a more practical view of the issues and hazards surrounding employment law from an HR professional. I met with Susan Breslauer, SPHR-CA of Silvers HR, LLC, a progressive Sacramento-area human resources consulting firm. The purpose of our chat was to gain a better understanding of common issues facing employers, as well as how those issues intersect workers’ compensation and other insurance/risk management programs that my practice involves.
Like the SEAC workshop, it was an eye-opening conversation about potential minefields that can damage a business’s reputation and greatly affect its financial future. Here are a few of the issues Susan and her colleagues see when consulting with employers:
- Basic compliance with employment law is lacking. This often includes wage and hour matters, such as the following:
- Wage/hour laws must be applied properly so employees are fairly compensated and timekeeping records support compliant practices.
- Exempt and non-exempt employees. These classifications are still not being properly designated.
- Itemized paystubs. Deductions do not clearly list all required data. This can be a big ticket item and often included in wage/hour claims and lawsuits.
- Meal breaks are not being consistently provided, documented and recognized by employers.
- Viable Injury Illness Prevention Plans are not present, even though this law went into effect in the mid-1990s. Many employers seem to ignore the spirit and the intent of this law.
And the list goes on and on.
Susan also said, “What employers do not know will hurt them . . . There are so many different local, state and federal laws; it is easy for employers not to be compliant.” She also stated that “a thorough HR assessment of the employer’s employment practices will determine what the employer needs. That is where they need to start.”
In other words, you just can’t evaluate a company’s employment practices in a “piecemeal” fashion. A consultant or employment attorney needs to get an overview of the company’s employment practices to know which steps to take and how to prioritize the recommendations that will most help that employer.
Finding a Solution
We rely on a doctor to monitor our health and give us advice on how to stay healthy. We should do the same for those human resource compliance and employment issues that can affect our employees and the success of our organization.
An Internet search will give you basic information, but you can’t be certain it’s applicable to your organization or specific situation. California employment requirements are complex, so employers need to develop an ongoing relationship with a qualified HR consultant or employment lawyer that can provide customized advice, insights and strategy based on detailed knowledge of the company’s policies and procedures.
If you don’t have a relationship with an HR professional, get one! It’s also a good idea to evaluate other risks your company may face. Our complimentary Risk & Threat Assessment can help make sure your company protects its employees and its financial future. For a free analysis, call 1-800-823-4852 x 8758 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.