Manager Mistakes That Could Harm Your Organization’s Credibility

Manager Mistakes That Could Harm Your Organization’s Credibility

Lawsuits against employers by employees has grown at a tremendous rate over the years and can cost serious time and money that can be better spent within your organization. There are even laws, such as the federal overtime law and the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), that allows employees to directly sue their supervisors – directly hit their managers right in their personal bank accounts.

Here are 12 manager mistakes that can harm your organization’s credibility in court, so use these as a checklist to prepare your personal employment-law defense:

Close-up of a vintage gavel, on blurred background, symbol of impartiality and rightness, judicial decisions, closed cases and justice

1. Sloppy documentation
Most discrimination cases are proven circumstantially, often through documents or statements made by managers – so make sure to always speak and write as if your comments will be held up to a jury someday.

2. Not knowing policies, procedures
If a manager admits ignorance to your organization’s policies and procedures, then juries will typically view that as purposeful, not forgetfulness. That’s why it’s vital that your managers understand your company’s policies, don’t make decisions based on a vague memory of these policies, and always double check either the policy or with HR before taking action.

3. Inflated appraisals
Inflated performance reviews can create credibility concerns if you later try to terminate someone based on “poor performance.” Be direct, honest and consistent.

4. Shrugging off complaints
Turning a blind eye to employees’ complaints because you’re “not a babysitter” or “boys will be boys” will hurt employee morale and jeopardize your standing in court.

5. Interview errors
When managers are asked “why did you reject certain candidates,” it is best that their answer is well-documented as they most likely won’t recall the reasons later. During interviews, stay away from any question that doesn’t focus on the central issue and never ask about age, race, marital status, children, day care plans, religion, health status or political affiliation.

6. Lack of legal knowledge
Juries will expect employer’s to know of all new developments in employment law. Refresh your knowledge regularly regarding your organization’s policies, read communications sent from HR and when in doubt, ask questions.

7. “Papering” an employee’s file
Over-documenting an employee’s file prior to termination will leave courts able to see the rush of disciplinary actions cited in the days leading up to the firing. Be consistent in documenting both the negative and positive performance and behavior of an employee. Keep a performance log for each employee, regularly making comments and notes.

8. Being rude, mean-spirited
Coming across as rude, insensitive and mean can make selling your case to a jury much harder.

9. Careless statements to feds
Managers may be called upon to help provide information and statements, so expect to see these introduced in trial. So keep your story straight, you don’t want to provide conflicting information.

10. Changing your story
Your credibility will be shot if you begin changing your reasoning for making adverse employment decisions (firing, discipline, demotion, etc.) midstream. Be forward with your employees about reasons for discipline.

11. Dictating accommodations
Under federal law, employers must make “reasonable” changes to the workplace to accommodate an employee’s disability. By law, a solution must be made through a give-and-take process, not by dictating the solution.

12. Firing employees too fast
You will stand a better chance of avoiding a lawsuit if you first try to improve the employee’s performance before firing, which could appear insensitive and potentially discriminatory.

Source: Business Management Daily – Leaders & Managers | The Dirty Dozen: Manager mistakes that spark lawsuits

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