To Meet Stronger Employment Laws, Create Better Employer Culture
Every business person knows it’s tougher than ever to be an employer. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission charges are on the rise; surveys indicate that reprisal actions are a major concern; and some of us are concerned the new Dodd-Frank legislation may spark "bounty" charges followed by lawsuits from employees who say they’ve been punished for pressing their claims.
If you’re concerned about the specters of citations and lawsuits, one approach is to worry less about the letter of the law and more about the spirit. In other words, rather than trying to meet every regulation on the head, create an employer culture consistent with the intent of the regulations and let compliance result from the way you operate, rather than operating in particular ways solely for compliance’s sake. Here are a few ways to go about that. But first a warning: this is really easy.
If you want to avoid EEOC charges, foster a culture of equal opportunity. Because discrimination isn’t always overt or even conscious, this isn’t always as easy as it sounds. Discrimination lurks in dark corners. The best solution is to shine a light on it, by recognizing where it exists and fixing it. You may also want to consider training to raise awareness among your employees.
Encourage both input and feedback.
The best way to ensure people’s concerns and complaints are heard is to listen, not grudgingly or as a last resort, but as a matter of course. It’s easy and expedient to assume that—as a boss—it’s your way or the highway. But that’s the sort of behavior that breeds the sort of resentments that can end up as legal complaints. Encourage your managers to ask questions and listen to the answers. You’ll be surprised at what you’ll learn.
Make “retaliation” a dirty word.
If an employee has a complaint, she should feel safe in voicing it. Period. You certainly have the right to accept a different point of view, or not. But retaliating against employees—even those who press claims you may not feel are legitimate—is simply not in your best interest. Think of it as looking forward, rather than backward. Thank people for the courage they show in bringing difficult issues forward, resolve the situation fairly and without rancor. And move on.