Sometimes, the greatest threat to your business is not an unhappy client or aggressive competitor, but a disgruntled employee. Regardless of how careful a business owner is to avoid discrimination and the appearance of discrimination, complaints are a common part of running a company.
Workplace protection laws were put into place to protect workers from the very real threats of discrimination and retaliation. Business owners would use their position to discourage reports of illegal workplace practices, threaten employees who made reports, and terminate whistleblowers. However, these laws are also prone to misuse by angry employees or ex-employees. Even if a claim has no merit, you cannot take claims of retaliation or wrongful discharge lightly. Laws heavily favor employees, and you must have an ironclad defense to take to court.
Prevention is, in almost any business law situation, less costly than defense. As an executive or owner, you must implement clear, employee-friendly protocols and rules that outline your expectations for employees and the consequences for failing to meet those expectations.
Documentation is essential when protecting your company against legal issues. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission provides resources for business owners that can help professionals develop legally sound protocols and procedures.
Additionally, working with a business and employment attorney can help avoid the expenses associated with future legal claims. Your attorney can review employee documents and workplace procedures, identify potentially problematic areas, and ensure that your company is compliant with all relevant statutes.
Building a Defense Against Retaliation
There are several components to an employee’s retaliation claim. After an employee engages in a protected activity—such as complaining about discrimination, threatening to file a discrimination complaint, striking, or participating in an investigation—they must believe that they have been the victim of adverse action. Adverse actions include termination, threat of termination, increased monitoring, or failure to promote when the employee would otherwise have been promoted.
The team at Shlansky Law Group will review all relevant documents and evidence relating to your employee’s retaliation claim. There are several defense strategies we may explore. If you took action in response to an employee’s productivity or job performance—not their inclusion in a protected class or participation in protected activities—this is a route to consider. An employee is protected from being fired for striking, but they can still be fired for poor job performance or excessive absenteeism.
We will also look at your workplace protocols and documentation to demonstrate that your company followed all necessary steps before disciplining an employee. This is one reason that documentation is so important; if it is written in your employee handbook that workers are fired after five unexcused absences and you have a history of firing employees after five absences, an employee claiming retaliation will have difficulty proving their case if their termination came after five absences.
Protection Against Wrongful Discharge Complaints
An employer must act in the best interest of their business, which often means choosing to terminate unproductive or poor performing employees. If an employee responds to their termination with a wrongful discharge complaint, you need immediate legal protection. If the termination occurred after the employee engaged in a protected activity, you have to demonstrate that they were not fired because of their participation in a protected activity or inclusion in a protected class. We will assess your workplace documents and employee handbook to determine whether or not proper termination procedures were followed and demonstrate a history of poor performance on the part of the employee.
You can also take proactive steps to prevent wrongful termination claims. Consider consulting Shlansky Law Group before terminating an employee to ensure that you take the proper steps and defend your company against legal issues.
When you choose Shlansky Law Group, you can rest easy knowing that your company’s legal needs are in good hands. Schedule a consultation now by calling us at (617) 497-7200 or reach out to us at info@slglawfirm.