Know Your Rights as an Employer: 3 Basic Steps to Protect Your Business

Know Your Rights as an Employer: 3 Basic Steps to Protect Your Business

By Bradley Hunt, Attorney at Law The employer and employee relationship can be tricky to navigate. Conflict between employers and employees can have a huge impact on the growth and profitability of a business. If you own or manage a business, it is important to understand your rights as an employer and take proactive steps, so you are ready when and if employment issues arise. Do You Need an Employment Contract? Do You Need an Employment Contract? In North Carolina, employment is “at-will,” meaning the employer is generally able to hire and fire at their discretion. That said, this does not mean a current or former employee might not file suit against the company. In certain situations, you may choose to protect your business with a clear and well-defined employment agreement (or employee contract). Such agreements are common in certain industries, including high tech and media. Often included in an employment agreement is a covenant not to compete, for instance, prohibiting a well-known on-air news personality from working for a rival station in the same market or barring a high-level software designer from working for a direct competitor for 12 months after their termination. Covenants not to compete can be hard to enforce, so if you choose to use this type of agreement to protect your business, we recommend having it drafted by an employment law attorney. Federal and State Employment Laws May Differ Labor laws can be complex and may differ by state and internationally. This can be challenging, especially if your business operates in multiple states or countries. To protect your business, you should have at least...
National Disability Employment Awareness Month

National Disability Employment Awareness Month

October ushers in fall and the beginning of holidays and celebrations. It is fitting that October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month. National Disability Employment Awareness Month was established by Congress in 1988 to applaud the many contributions by individuals with disabilities in our workforce, and to educate the public on issues encountered by those with disabilities. This year’s theme is: ”America’s Workforce: Empowering All.” Visit, What Can You Do to educate and inspire your team to focus on what each person CAN DO to effect and empower the team as a whole. We would like to take this opportunity to reiterate the importance of focusing on the “can do” by reminding employers of best practices: When hiring, you cannot discriminate because a person has a disability. What you can do is make reasonable accommodations for the individual so he or she can do the job without any barriers. The Americans with Disabilities Act Overview provides a good understanding of what you can do. Encourage team members to get to know each other. This helps put the focus on the person (and their abilities) rather than the disability. When referencing a person with a disability, you should not say “disabled person” or call the person by the name of the disability. Once an individual with a disability has been hired, remember to provide the same access to advancement, trainings, benefits and any other offering your company extends to all employees. Not all disabilities are visible or immediately apparent. Make certain all your supervisors and managers are aware of how to address requests for reasonable accommodations. Get your company involved! The...
Best Practices for Employee Reviews

Best Practices for Employee Reviews

By Bradley Hunt, Attorney at Law If you are like many supervisors, preparing and delivering annual employee reviews is not on your list of favorite things to do! That said, regular performance reviews are important, and how they are handled matters. Reviews are important to employees Employees want and need feedback, and regular communication with individuals and teams can help improve the work environment. Knowing what they are doing well and where they need to improve can make employees feel the employer cares about their success with the company. While an annual review is standard for many companies, you should give feedback regularly. It can be hard to remember what happened eight months ago, so an informal monthly or quarterly review may be helpful to both the employer and employee. If an employee’s action requires correction or discipline, handle that immediately and be sure to document any corrective measures that need to be taken. Individuals should know up front what their job duties are and understand the employer’s performance expectations. Written job descriptions can provide guidance to employees and protect employers if there are questions about duties or salaries. A well-written employee handbook can define high-level expectations related to conduct (tardiness, vacation, procedures to report a workplace injury, etc.) and spell out discipline procedures, including actions that would result in immediate termination. This handbook can protect both parties and help ensure all employees are treated the same. Reviews can protect employers Employment in North Carolina is “at will,” meaning an employee can be terminated without cause. While there are some exceptions to “at will” employment, we usually recommend employers...
Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

By Bradley Hunt, Attorney at Law There have been several high profile claims of workplace sexual harassment in the news lately, most recently with a claim by a former engineer at Uber that her manager sexually harassed her. Claims of sexual harassment must be taken very seriously by employers, who can be held accountable if the behavior of a harasser is ignored. In the case of Uber, the CEO just hired a third-party to investigate the claims. What is Sexual Harassment? According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), “It is unlawful to harass a person (an applicant or employee) because of that person’s sex. Harassment can include “sexual harassment” or unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature. Harassment does not have to be of a sexual nature, however, and can include offensive remarks about a person’s sex.” The law does not consider occasional teasing or single incidents that are not serious to be harassment, although employers must be aware that behavior that escalates may quickly jump into this category. Behavior becomes harassment when it creates a “hostile or offensive” work environment or results in the victim being fired, demoted or believing he or she has no recourse but to quit the job. It is important to note that both men and women can be victims of sexual harassment, and the harasser may be a manager, coworker, someone else within the company, the employee of a vendor or supplier, or even a client. The law not only protects victims of harassment, but also protects third parties who are...