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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: How to Handle Employment Disputes

December 19, 2007

About a year ago, I wrote an article on \"tips\" to make businesses more successful and safer from a legal standpoint. As we are nearing another year-end, I thought that it would be appropriate to extend this topic to all employers and connect it to my previous “ounce of prevention” articles on how to prevent costly and time-consuming legal disputes.

In Mount Washington Valley, people make a living in a variety of ways. Employers include municipalities, businesses, schools, and countless other ventures. Moreover, with the advent of the internet, there are also a growing number of businesses that you would traditionally find in or near cities such as high-tech and financial employers. Needless to say, with all employers there is the possibility that work-related disputes will arise. In this article, I will list some procedures for handling employee disputes or for avoiding them altogether.

(1) Workplace Disputes Should be Documented: If an employment dispute is documented it will likely 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.

(2) Employee Complaints Should be Investigated: The safest way to investigate a dispute is to hire someone to conduct an impartial third party investigation. However, even if a third party investigation is not practical, a supervisor should investigate the complaint and make written findings of his/her conclusions. Do not take any adverse action against the complaining employee for making the complaint because you believe that the employee is a \"troublemaker\". Such actions could provide the basis for a retaliation claim against you as an employer.

(3) Have a Written Anti-Harassment Policy: 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.

(4) Conduct Regular Performance Appraisals: 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 and will help to avoid many disputes.

Anticipating and preventing workplace disputes before they arise is perhaps the single most important factor in avoiding costly and stressful employment-related disputes. Dealing with any disputes the moment that they arise is likewise critical to maintaining a positive employer-employee relationship. As we near the end of the year, business owners, supervisors, and employees should take a moment to review the work processes in place and determine what, if any, changes need to be made. This can be done with the help of an attorney, an employment specialist, or internally. A little foresight can prevent many costly and lengthy legal disputes.

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