Part of our job in HR is helping employers avoid civil suits by making sure they are complying with state and federal laws, and engaging in low liability practices. Unfortunately, it’s becoming increasingly common for HR managers to be held financially liable when things go wrong. This can be devastating professionally and financially. What can be done to avoid these kinds of circumstances? Here’s 5 tips on keeping your professional game tight, and avoiding potentially catastrophic legal proceedings.
1. Educate yourself and your managers about the law. Knowing the law, and keeping up with the law, is a critical part of HR. Laws can vary drastically depending on your location, and they change all of the time. The only way to truly be protected from liability is to know the laws inside and out. Once you’ve thoroughly studied the laws, make sure to pass this knowledge on to your managers, and CEO’s. As an HR manager, it’s your job to not only research and memorize labor laws and such, but to make sure the rest of the company is in the know as well.
2. Follow the law, over orders from within the company. As much as we want to be loyal employees, if someone orders you to do something that you both know is in violation of state or federal law, it’s your job as an HR pro to stand up and say no. Acting illegally on behalf of an employer puts yourself and your own money at risk, not to mention the company itself and everyone else it employs. If you feel denying this order will put your job at risk, you should contact the proper authorities.
3. Review and update policies and procedures. Once you’ve gotten yourself up to date with all of the legal guidelines, review your current policies and procedures and make sure they are completely legal. If any of the former policies have any issues with liability whatsoever, change them so they don’t. Regularly reviewing and updating HR procedures is an easy way to avoid liability.
4. Follow through with policies and procedures. Having HR policies and procedures is only useful if you make sure to follow through with them. If an employee is upset with the way they were treated, and can prove that you didn’t follow your own procedures in dealing with them, they have a case against you.
5. Keep cool, and always act professionally. Even the most professional people can lose it sometimes. Unfortunately when you work in HR “losing it” can cost you six-figures in legal settlements. Even if someone is really testing your limits, at the office, you have to keep your cool. If you always stay professional, civil, and follow policies and procedures, that employee that is pushing all of your buttons, will have no legal ground to stand on.
While it may seem unfair that HR pros’ can get stuck with the bill when things go wrong in the workplace, it’s the nature of the work and it needs to be addressed. If you make sure to stay educated, update and follow your policies, and always act professionally, you can do your best to avoid legal troubles. If you follow all of these tips, and still find yourself getting served, you can find some solace in the fact that the case will likely get thrown out, because you did everything right.