Employment law for non-lawyers: What you don’t know can hurt you

Thursday, September 01, 2016 – Janice Pintar, JD

If employment law was simple, we wouldn’t need lawyers. The truth is that employment law is complex and always changing, through the passage of new laws, regulations, federal and state enforcement actions and even social trends. It is critical for your organization to understand what employment laws may apply to your workplace so that you can ensure compliance and minimize your risk.

Ignorantia juris non excusat

Ignorance of the law is no excuse. This ancient Roman legal principal provides that a person cannot escape liability for violating a law, simply by claiming ignorance. This principal, often equated with criminal law, applies with equal force to employment law. In fact, a showing of ignorance or indifference to the law can give rise to additional legal penalties and damages in many common employment contexts, such as in discrimination and wage and hour lawsuits.

We have developed a comprehensive four -part webinar series designed to introduce the basics of employment law to non-lawyers. Business leaders, managers, and human resources professionals of all levels should consider attending this four-part series. Called “Employment Law for Non-Lawyers,” each part of the four-part series will introduce you to a critical area of employment law.

Part I: Employment at-will, discrimination and hiring

Part I of the series will tackle the foundational elements of the employment relationship, including the concept of employment at-will, employment discrimination, and common legal issues in the hiring process. What questions should we avoid during interviews? What does the appearance of discrimination mean? We will discuss employer practices that can lead to legal problems and how to avoid them.

Part II: Wage and hour and recordkeeping

Part II of the series will focus on wage & hour issues, reporting obligations, and record keeping. What are the most common reporting obligations? What should we keep in an employee file? Do we need an affirmative action plan? Are we correctly classifying our employees as exempt or non-exempt from overtime payments? As wage and hour lawsuits continue to rise, and with the new U.S. Department of Labor rules on the horizon, we will review the most common exemptions for purposes of minimum wage payments and overtime.

Part III: ADA, FMLA and workers compensation

In Part III of the series, we will provide an overview of what has been called the Bermuda triangle of employment law – the intersection of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and other leave laws, and Workers’ Compensation. Medical leaves of absence and requests for ADA accommodations for injuries and illnesses continue to pose compliance challenges and can confound even the most seasoned human resources professionals. We will address the definition of disability and explore best practices when it comes to addressing, administering, and documenting different medical leaves and other accommodations.

Part IV: Harassment, discipline, termination, and unemployment

Finally in Part IV, we address how to avoid illegal harassment and claims and best practices for administering discipline up to and including termination, as well as issues related to termination. What is unlawful harassment? What are the basic steps for preventing and correcting harassment complaints? How should we document discipline? Why is documentation of our employment decisions so important? How does unemployment compensation fit in?

Next steps

The webinars in this series are free. You can sign up for one or all of the parts in the series. But this is just the beginning. If you need a deeper dive into any of these topics, be sure to check out the rest of our fall webinar line-up. HR Hotline clients who have specific questions can always give us a call or email us. If you are not a current HR Hotline client but are interested in learning more, contact us.

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