While you can never totally insulate your organization against a lawsuit, you can take preventive measures to limit the exposure.
Consult legal counsel to assist in general operations such as drafting policies, handbooks, or preparing employment contracts. Since employment law is constantly changing, consulting local legal counsel in these matters may prevent or limit the liability in various situations.
For example, always consult legal counsel before terminating an employee. Your attorney will be able to review your employment records, advise you of any
potential liability before an employment claim develops, and provide information as to how the termination should be accomplished.
By law, all organizations are required to maintain certain employment records, such as employee wages and hours worked. It’s imperative that you keep separate confidential personnel records on each employee and that the information is given only to those individuals who have a need to know.
Generally, individuals who have a “need to know” are a small group of people, such as supervisors or members of a governing board. Additionally, the information provided even to these individuals should be limited to the facts. Be aware that state laws differ as to whether employees have a right to review their personnel file, as well as what information may be reviewed. Most states limit what information employees or former employees may view and when copies of the file must be made available to the employee. Additionally, besides the basic identifying information, personnel records should include:
When courts review a discrimination complaint, they often initially consider two items. First, was there a policy in place addressing the issue, and secondly, was the policy consistently applied and followed?
For example, if a person alleging racial discrimination was terminated for excessive absence, the court will first inquire as to whether a discrimination policy was in place and how it was administered. The court will then consider how previous employees with histories of excessive absence were treated.
If your organization has an employee handbook that includes progressive discipline or termination provisions, it’s important to follow the procedures and processes consistently.
Here are some helpful hints on record keeping and defamation and how to address some of the more common issues affecting faith-based employers:
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