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Alkalay & Smillie, PLLC

in Mt. Washington Valley, New Hampshire

Office: (603) 447-8994
Fax: (603) 297-2866

Articles of Interest

Attorney Edward Alkalay writes a regular column for the Conway Daily Sun newspaper entitled "The Legal Corner." His articles address a wide variety of timely legal issues. Click on the titles below to review his past articles.

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The Legal Corner: The Legal Corner: Tips to Employers for the New Year

January 7, 2011

When you own or run a business, there are always certain administrative or other work-related practices that can be refined so as to create a more positive and productive atmosphere. Over the past year, I have had many employer-clients with employment related-problems that could have been avoided without any cost and well before any dispute arose. While there is certainly not room in this article to discuss employment practices or law in great detail, I have come up with some simple practices for employers to consider implementing in the New Year. I believe that if some of these practices are implemented, they will help employers to avoid conflict with employees, save potential legal fees, and produce a more profitable business. Below I list some thoughts on how employers can improve employment practices in the new year:

Employee disputes are the number one problem for small business owners. You should do everything that you can to avoid them. Perhaps the most important thing that an employer can do to have a successful and profitable relationship with employees is to carefully evaluate all potential employees before hiring them. This will avoid 90% of all employment-related problems. Oftentimes employers may need to hire someone quickly because the workload has increased or because another employee has left. It is a major mistake to simply hire someone in order to fill a void in the workplace. Taking a little bit of extra time to evaluate an employee’s credentials, check references, and discuss the applicant with other people will help you avoid employee issues and allow you to hire the right person for the right job.

If there is any dispute with an employee, it is very important to document the dispute. This will hopefullylikely defuse an uncomfortable situation and allow both sides to communicate about the problem. Moreover, documenting a dispute will provide a contemporaneous written record of a dispute which may be needed at a later date. This applies to employees as well as employers. If an employee has a complaint about treatment at work, he/she should give a supervisor a formal written complaint.

If an employee makes a complaint (harassment or safety violations for example), investigate the complaint and make written findings of your investigation. Do not take any adverse action against the employee because of the complaint simply because you believe that the employee is a “troublemaker”. This could provide the basis for a retaliation action.

It is very important to have an anti-harassment policy, with complaint procedure, posted in your workplace. This will clearly communicate to employees what to do if they feel they are being harassed, and will likely provide an affirmative defense for an employer if a legal dispute arises in the future regarding harassment. Along the same lines, place all legally required posters in an area where employees can easily see them. For a complete list of mandatory posters see http://www.labor.state.nh.us/mandatory_posters.asp.

Though not required by law, regular performance appraisals will reinforce good performance, provide notice of unsatisfactory performance, and provide a regular avenue of communication between an employee and employer. Communication between employer and employee (whether positive or negative) is critical to creating a mutually beneficial work-environment.

If an event arises which warrants an employee’s termination, do not fire the employee immediately while tempers are still flaring. It is far better for the employer and more fair for the employee (and more likely to avoid costly litigation) to suspend an employee, with or without pay, investigate the terminable act thoroughly, and then make the final decision whether to fire the employee based on business logic rather than emotion.

When Employees Are Doing a Good Job, Tell Them: An appreciative word or two to a hard working employee will help to foster a positive atmosphere, and reduce turnover. If you can afford it, give a hard working employee a bonus to show your appreciation. Even a small bonus will be much appreciated. While representing employers (and employees), I have seen many employees leave jobs to go to another employer who is not offering any more money or benefits to the employee. The employee leaves simply because he or she does not feel appreciated. A high turnover rate diminishes profitability. Find hard workers, communicate your appreciation, and develop a long term relationship that is mutually beneficial.

Edward D. Alkalay is a partner at Alkalay & Smillie PLLC and can be reached at (603)447-8994 or ed@northconwaylawyers.com. (This article conveys general information and should not be relied on for legal advice without further research and/or consultation with an attorney.)

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By: Edward D. Alkalay