Employment law can affect many facets of your business. As an employer, you need to be aware of laws pertaining to a number of things, including:
- Wages and hours;
- Discrimination, retaliation, and harassment;
- Employment contracts;
- Hiring and firing;
- Workplace safety; and
- Family and medical leave.
Employer lawyers help protect businesses from legal disputes based on these employment laws. In particular, if your business is faced with any of the situations below, it may be a good time to speak with an employer attorney about employment law.
1. You’re Hiring for a New Position
Different employment rules apply to different types of positions. If you are establishing a new position, it is important that you accurately classify the role.
For example, depending on the person’s duties, salary, and method of payment, an employee may or may not be exempt from overtime, breaks, and other rules imposed by the federal Fair Labor Standards Act. Additionally, specific rules govern whether you can classify someone as an independent contractor rather than an employee.
Misclassifying a role can have hefty financial consequences. An employment attorney can help you understand the rules that apply to you and make sure you are in compliance.
2. You’re Establishing Employment Policies and Creating an Employee Handbook
It is always a good idea to have written employment policies contained in an employee handbook. This helps create expectations for your employees and can protect you in the event of a lawsuit.
An employment lawyer can help you craft your policies and create a handbook that complies with all federal and state laws. This may also include policies that define your obligations to your employees and limit your liability. Even if you decide to draft your own handbook, it is a good idea to have an employer attorney look it over for any legal issues.
3. You Want to Fire an Employee
Like most states, Michigan is an at-will employment state, which means that an employer can typically fire an employee at any time for any legal reason or no reason at all. However, you can’t legally fire an employee:
- For a discriminatory reason, such as their race, religion, or sex;
- Because they have used benefits to which they are legally entitled to, such as Family Medical Leave or Workers’ Compensation, or are soon going to collect such benefits;
- For a retaliatory reason, such as their filing a harassment complaint; or
- In violation of the terms of an employment contract.
If you are concerned about firing an employee an attorney for employers can help you navigate the process and advise you about how to move forward and limit monetary exposure.
4. You’ve Been Sued by an Employee
If an employee has sued you or threatened to sue you, it’s essential that you contact an employment lawyer right away.
Particularly if you have been served with a legal complaint, time is of the essence. You have a short period of time to respond to a complaint. If you neglect to do so, you could forfeit many of your rights to effectively defend against the employee’s allegations in court. An attorney can help make sure that you meet all necessary deadlines and file a response that preserves your defenses.
Even if legal action hasn’t officially begun, an employment attorney can help you negotiate with the employee’s lawyer and attempt to reach a resolution without incurring extensive expenses.
5. You Need to Sue an Employee
As an employer, you may be concerned about lawsuits from disgruntled employees. But do you realize that there are also situations where you may need to sue an employee or former employee to protect the interests of your business?
You may have a cause of action against an employee for things like:
- Breach of an employment contract;
- Breach of a non-compete, non-solicitation, or non-disclosure agreement;
- Tortious interference with your business relationships;
- Indemnification for damages you have to pay for an employee’s negligence;
- Breach of duty of loyalty; or
- Destruction or theft of company property.
If an employee has done something to harm your business, it’s a good idea to talk to an employment lawyer about your potential remedies.
6. An Employee Has Filed an Administrative Complaint
There are a number of federal and state regulations that protect employees from things like harassment, discrimination, retaliation, and unfair labor practices. Each of these regulations has a mechanism for employees to file administrative complaints to seek redress.
If one of your current or former employees has filed an administrative complaint, it’s important to consult with an employment lawyer. They can advise you about how to cooperate with any investigation and how to respond to allegations. They can also represent you at an administrative hearing.
7. You Need to Respond to Internal Employee Complaints
In many cases, employees attempt to resolve concerns with their employer before turning to other legal or administrative remedies. In fact, some rules require employees to do so before they can pursue such remedies.
If you have received an internal complaint of harassment or discrimination or if an employee has raised any other concern that could have legal implications, it’s a good idea to consult with an employment attorney about the best way to resolve the concern. You may need to put new policies in place, address the issue with management, or even take action against individual employees. An attorney can help you determine what actions make sense in your individual circumstances.
8. You Need to Lay Off Employees
Laying off employees is an unfortunate, but sometimes necessary, situation that many employers find themselves in.
Depending on the number of employees you are laying off, the size of your business, and the location of your business, you may have to follow various federal or state layoff rules. These rules may require you to give a certain amount of notice or even to offer severance pay or continued health benefits for some period of time. An employer attorney can help you understand which rules apply to your situation.
9. You Want to Change Your Employee Benefits or Policies
If you are considering changing the benefits you offer your employees or implementing new policies, you may consider consulting an employment attorney first.
With so many laws and regulations governing employment, it is easy to run afoul of them. An attorney can help you make sure your new policies are compliant and that you aren’t violating any employee rights by making changes.
10. You Want to Set Up an Employment Contract
There are a number of situations where you may want to enter into a contract with an employee. Particularly when you have a highly qualified employee or an employee with a special skillset, you may offer certain protections or guarantees as an inducement for them to work for you. Further, if you have employees that have special access to trade secrets, client lists, or other sensitive information, you may need non-solicitation, non-compete, or non-disclosure agreements.
Any time you enter a contract with an employee, it is important that you have a lawyer draft or review the contract to make sure that your interests are protected. Language in these agreements needs to be precise and should anticipate various circumstances that may arise in the future. Trying to draw up an effective employment contract without a lawyer could lead to costly litigation down the road.
Talk to an Employer Attorney at The Miller Law Firm Today
If you are facing any of the situations above, or if you have any other questions about employment law for your business, contact The Miller Law Firm, P.C. for a free consultation. We are a nationally recognized business law firm, and our attorneys are well-versed in all aspects of employment law. Call us or contact us online today to learn how we can help you with the specific needs of your business.