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The Hamilton Law Blog

Proactive steps that minimize harassment claims in the office

Employers have to think about many things just to keep their business running. Everything from dealing with employees to marketing plans may be part of your responsibilities as an employer, and this means you may not have much room to think about preventing certain types of legal problems. In reality, it is worthwhile to take the time to think about what you can do to protect your company.

Claims and allegations of misconduct in your place of work can be detrimental. Even if they are untrue, just the hint of sexual harassment can have a devastating impact on your company's reputation and your employee-employer relationship. There are steps you can take that will allow you to shield your business interests and minimize the chance that a sexual harassment incident will take place.

Employees on Social Media

Protecting your Company's Brand

You have spent thousands hiring a branding company to launch a new marketing initiative to accelerate your growth. As entrepreneurs, we often forget that corporate change is hard and that any new initiative needs top-to-bottom buy-in. Even if you have an existing brand with no new changes, you still work hard to protect your company's image in all public facing communications.

Workplace Bullies

The EEOC defines harassment as "unwelcome conduct that is based on race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information." To be actionable at law, the harassment needs to be aimed at these protected categories.

However, as an employer, you must be alert to all forms of harassment taking place at your company, regardless of the harasser's motivation. A workplace bully creates a toxic environment that is detrimental to other employees, company morale and overall productivity. One of your responsibilities as an owner/manager is to ensure that you are providing a healthy work environment free from harassment and intimidation and to address such instances as they arise.

Handling an Employee Complaint

As an employer and an entrepreneur, the highest and best use of your time is spent in working in your business. The most frustrating part of your job as a manager is likely to be the moment when you receive the charge from the NJ Division of Civil Rights (DCR) or EEOC alleging that you or one of your employees has committed some form of harassment and discrimination.

In most cases, you have already been notified about the facts and circumstances supporting the charge. It is likely that the charging employee will have complained to HR or a supervisor about his or her concerns. At this juncture, it is imperative for you to contact your attorney to investigate the merits of the complaint and ensure that any offending behavior, if deemed to have occurred, is stopped and addressed immediately. As an employer, you strive to maintain a safe and healthy working environment, which has the added benefit of increasing productivity and reducing "drama."

However, there will be times when you find yourself faced with an employee complaint about harassment, discrimination or bullying (to be discussed in a subsequent post).

Defending against sexual harassment allegations in the workplace

As an employer, you understand employees have the right to expect fair and appropriate treatment. New Jersey employees are entitled to a workplace that is free from harassment, including unwanted sexual advances. If allegations of sexual harassment arise, however, what should employers do next?

As a business owner, you understand the importance of protecting the interests of your company while still protecting the rights of your employees. Issues involving supposed sexual harassment incidents are serious, and they are a threat to the legal and financial well-being of your business. There is significant benefit in taking immediate steps to defend your business and handle any type of allegation appropriately.

Franchisee Negotiated A Commercial Lease That Complied With The Franchise Agreement And The Mall Developer's Objectives.

A franchisee was looking to open a new location for their business in a yet-to-be-built strip mall. The negotiating parties would include the developer, franchisor, and franchisee. The franchise agreement stipulated what types of businesses could be adjacent to the client's business. The franchisee and franchisor also wanted the developer to provide environmental testing and indemnification defense to environmental issues after the testing.

Can writing protect your interests in a lawsuit?

As an employer, you continuously have things on your "to do" list. You may need to establish a budget, monitor productivity, create a sales strategy and comply with your franchise agreement.

You also need to manage your employees. In some cases, you may decide to separate an employee from the company due to performance issues. But do you know how to protect your interests if a former employee files a lawsuit against you for letting them go?

Proper documentation can guide you and your employees along the path to success

In addition to being costly, fighting a lawsuit can detract a great deal of time and focus from your company. And if you work to develop quality relationships with those who report to you, a lawsuit may seem hurtful on a personal level.

Why every business, regardless of size, needs an employee handbook

As you begin to grow your business, your first thought is usually to bring on people to help increase deliverables and revenue. However, before you hire your first employee, you must have the systems in place to protect you and your business. When hiring new employees, this means having a time-tracking and payroll system in place. Those are easy to implement with online resources like Quickbooks, Square Space or ADP or other payroll programs which fully integrate these functions into your workplace. However, the one thing you must have in place before you hire your first employee is an employee handbook.

Filing a complaint may bring an end to a hostile workplace

Most New Jersey residents have mixed feelings about going to work. Some people may love their jobs, and others may dread the mundane activities they have to complete. You may have obtained the type of job you always wanted, but you still find yourself not wanting to go to work most days. The actions of your supervisors or co-workers may contribute to these feelings.

You may be the victim of serious mistreatment on the job. Other people with whom you work may treat you unfairly due to your religion, gender, race or other protected characteristics. As a result, you may feel anxiety and stress before going into work because of the hostile environment that supervisors or co-workers have created.

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