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Effectively managing employees can be a daunting task for small to medium sized employers. Fostering content and productive employees often times causes a business to overlook an “issue” with a particular employee. The risk with this approach is when a lawsuit or administrative agency inquiry arises which then focuses on the employer’s past personnel management behavior. Accordingly, an objective and consistent approach to managing personnel is not only fair, but can afford the employer substantial protections.
Inconsistently managing your employees will be the focus in an investigation by the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) in a discrimination complaint. The DFEH, as will a lawsuit, will be interested in a race discrimination claim if a white employee was disciplined for a similar offense.
A defense to an unemployment claim is that the terminated employee was fired for violating company policy. Documenting the violations will enhance proving the defense and obtaining a denial of the unemployment claim which can avoid the surcharge imposed by the Employment Development Department when unemployment benefits are paid.
Accordingly, employers are advised to document any violation of company policy whether minor or substantial. Often a minor violation of company policy (tardiness for example) will generally only warrant, at least with the first time, a verbal warning will suffice, but a memo with the date and substance of the discussion in the employee’s file. For substantial violations, a meeting with the employee and two, not one, employer representatives is recommended with a written warning thereafter provided to the employee for signature acknowledging the discussion/meeting occurred.
Effectively managing personnel will not negate the at-will employment relationship but will position the employer to defend various termination related claims.
Bob Caietti is a partner with Walters & Caietti, APC, and can be contacted in his Temecula office located at 40140 Winchester Rd., Ste. C, Temecula CA 92591, 951.693.2024, via email firstname.lastname@example.org or www.walterscaietti.com.