Success By Association - March/April 2017 - 8

employmentlaw

What I Learned as an Employment Attorney:

Non-legal advice to get you out of legal hot water
Terrance F. Canela, SPHR, CAE

What this article is not.

T

his article is not a primer on employment law.
There are plenty of resources out there where you
can familiarize yourself with discrimination and
harassment laws, FLSA, ADA, ERISA, OSHA, Workers'
Compensation and all the state equivalents. If you are reading
this, you are probably already familiar enough with the legal
basics of employment law, and no article of this length is going
to cover all that in any meaningful way.

What this article is.
This article is a primer on what I have found to be those
intangibles that ultimately inform how employment laws
are applied. Employers that do these things well, without
exception, navigate through conflict well and can avoid
costly litigation.

My top five pieces of advice that
have nothing to do with the law.

1

Do not attempt to figure it all out yourself.

Google and message boards are great places to start, but do
not finish there. Get help. When an employment conflict arises,
do not keep it to yourself and try to figure it out. Tell someone
in HR, talk to your manager, vice president, CEO. Employment
issues are intensely fact based, and others in your organization
will have additional insight, information, and experience. Then,
talk to your attorney.

2

Review your policies and staff handbook
every year.

Organizations have a tendency to publish a staff handbook
and policies once, and then move on to other things. When
faced with a conflict or complaint, the first thing you should
look at is your staff handbook and relevant policies. If you, as
an employer, are not acutely aware of what these documents
say, there is a high likelihood you are acting inconsistently with

8

success || march/april 2017

your own rules. Reviewing your policies and staff handbook
keeps those rules top of mind and any updates that need to
happen will be timely.

3

Document everything, and act quickly
when issues arise.

Write it down. Put it in a file. When there is a conflict, do
not rely on your memory. If things devolve into threatened
litigation, you will have paper documentation to back
your memory up. As much as possible, try to document
deliberately and uniformly, and teach your managers and
supervisors to do the same. By the time an issues comes
to your attention, trust that it is already festered for some
time. Be sure to make it a priority to deal with expeditiously.
This also tells your employees they are important and their
concerns are your concerns.

4

Talk to your people.

Take the time to talk to all your reports, and have a culture
where your managers do the same. I once worked with an
HR director who made it a point to have lunch or coffee
with every employee in the company, and helped make this
director highly effective because she made the effort to
connect on deeper level. Getting to know your people builds
strong bonds, camaraderie, and a real sense of team, and
when you have that, problems tend to get addressed and



Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Success By Association - March/April 2017

President’s Message
Event Calendar
Change, One Person at a Time
What I Learned as an Employment Attorney: Non-Legal Advice to Get You Out of Legal Hot Water
Is Your Hiring Filter in the Way?
Freedom Comes From Rules
Cost/Benefit of an Organization Retreat
Polish Up Your Confict-of-Interest Policy
Legislative Reception a Success!
Getting the Leadership Basics Right
Member Updates
Should They Stay or Should They Go? (With Apologies to the Clash)
Young Leader Profile
Advertiser Index
Buyers’ Guide
Advertiser Showcase
Executive Director’s Message
Success By Association - March/April 2017 - cover1
Success By Association - March/April 2017 - cover2
Success By Association - March/April 2017 - 3
Success By Association - March/April 2017 - President’s Message
Success By Association - March/April 2017 - Event Calendar
Success By Association - March/April 2017 - 6
Success By Association - March/April 2017 - Change, One Person at a Time
Success By Association - March/April 2017 - What I Learned as an Employment Attorney: Non-Legal Advice to Get You Out of Legal Hot Water
Success By Association - March/April 2017 - 9
Success By Association - March/April 2017 - Is Your Hiring Filter in the Way?
Success By Association - March/April 2017 - Freedom Comes From Rules
Success By Association - March/April 2017 - Cost/Benefit of an Organization Retreat
Success By Association - March/April 2017 - 13
Success By Association - March/April 2017 - Polish Up Your Confict-of-Interest Policy
Success By Association - March/April 2017 - 15
Success By Association - March/April 2017 - Legislative Reception a Success!
Success By Association - March/April 2017 - 17
Success By Association - March/April 2017 - 18
Success By Association - March/April 2017 - 19
Success By Association - March/April 2017 - Getting the Leadership Basics Right
Success By Association - March/April 2017 - 21
Success By Association - March/April 2017 - Member Updates
Success By Association - March/April 2017 - 23
Success By Association - March/April 2017 - Should They Stay or Should They Go? (With Apologies to the Clash)
Success By Association - March/April 2017 - 25
Success By Association - March/April 2017 - Young Leader Profile
Success By Association - March/April 2017 - Advertiser Index
Success By Association - March/April 2017 - Buyers’ Guide
Success By Association - March/April 2017 - Advertiser Showcase
Success By Association - March/April 2017 - Executive Director’s Message
Success By Association - March/April 2017 - cover3
Success By Association - March/April 2017 - cover4
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