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Common HR mistakes small businesses make – and how to avoid them

by | Jun 29, 2021 | Business Law

If you have taken the bold step of starting your own business, congratulations. You’ve taken on an enormous challenge, with many moving parts to coordinate. Now you’ve built up your company to the point where you’re hiring other people and making decisions regarding human resources policies and employee training protocols. At this stage, it can be very beneficial to learn from other people’s mistakes and avoid some of the stumbling blocks that could turn out to be quite costly for your business.

Having insufficient sexual harassment prevention protocols

When an employee brings a sexual harassment lawsuit against their company, it often leads to an extremely expensive settlement. It’s best to take every measure necessary to prevent sexual harassment in your company, and to protect your company from liability in the event that it does occur.

The U.S. Supreme Court cases of Ellerth and Faragher outline the requirements that businesses must take to shield themselves from liability for a sexual harassment incident. If you put into place sufficient anti-sexual harassment policies and train your employees on them, and give them sufficient opportunities to take advantage of your HR department’s reporting protocols, then you can protect your company from liability in case of a potential lawsuit.

Failing to document employee behavior or performance problems

Washington is an at-will state, meaning that – in most circumstances – you can terminate your employees for any legal reason. But there are several state and federal statutes that forbid employers from terminating employees for certain reasons, such as the employee’s race, sex, pregnancy status and so forth.

If you have to fire an employee, they might try to bring a wrongful termination lawsuit against you, alleging that your justification for firing them was based on illegal reasons. If this happens, you will have to be able to demonstrate to the court that you had a rational, legal reason for deciding to fire them.

It will help you greatly if you can point to a thorough record of the employee’s attendance, tardiness, performance issues, behavioral issues or other reasons that would justify any normal employer’s decision to fire an employee.

Each stage of a growing business comes with its own unique challenges. Taking steps to avoid common HR mistakes can help you to keep your business growing smoothly while also protecting your employees.