Steffans Legal Provides Counseling To Employers In Pittsfield, North Adams, Springfield, Worcester, Lowell, Fall River, New Bedford, And Cape Cod
“The best offense is a good defense.” That adage is true in many contexts—and it’s definitely true for what employers can do to avoid risk in the employment context.
Ben Steffans has spent his entire legal career practicing employment law. He spent the first six years of his career in the labor and employment department of a large national law firm based in Detroit, Michigan. During that time, he learned from some of the country’s best employment lawyers on how to defend employment claims, and also how to counsel and represent employers to avoid those claims and to remain compliant with state and federal employment laws. For the past six years, Ben Steffans has expanded his employment practice to not only represent employers, but also to represent employees. Representing employees in employment claims allows Steffans Legal to provide a unique perspective to its employer clients.
During his career, Ben Steffans has represented companies in all industries on compliance with the various laws that impact the workplace, including the Fair Labor Standards Act, the Massachusetts Wage Act, the Family Medical Leave Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, Massachusetts Chapter 151B, and Title VII. Ben Steffans has represented employers in all types of industries, including financial institutions, hospitals, physician practices, retail establishments, restaurants, schools, universities, private schools, manufacturing business, and automobile dealerships.
Ben Steffans also has considerable experience in drafting employment-related documents, including employee handbooks, non-compete and non-solicit agreements, non-disclosure agreements, employment applications, discipline documents, performance improvement plans, and various types of employment policies. Steffans Legal has also performed investigations and audits for a wide variety of clients as to whether they are complying with wage-and-hour laws and in response to allegations of unlawful conduct.
Below is a list of tips for employers regarding employment-law best practices. Follow these carefully and regularly and you are off to a good start.
TIP 1: Review and Update Employee Handbook
We’ve written hundreds of these. In that time, we’ve learned that a well-drafted employee handbook can protect you from employment lawsuits by demonstrating compliance with federal and state laws. It also is an important and effective way to communicate key workplace policies. Handbooks should be reviewed annually to ensure compliance with changes to the law. We write these and review these for our clients for flat-fees and have done so many that we can deliver a finished and complaint product very efficiently.
TIP 2: Review and Update New Hire Package and Process
Most employers have their new hires review and sign a large number of acknowledgments of policies and agreements during the new hire orientation. These are incredibly important documents in terms of legal compliance, but also for avoiding litigation. Unfortunately, these documents are frequently out-of-date and, many times, conflict with the employee handbook. Thus, these documents should be reviewed annually and updated as needed. We have standard sets of documents that we recommend employers have employees sign at the time of hiring. We can modify these for your use for a low flat-fee.
TIP 3: Train Supervisors and Managers
Supervisors and managers are intimately involved with the day-to-day operations of your workplace. As a result, they are likely to be aware of important information regarding workplace harassment and discrimination, and may be aware of wage-and-hour violations. Without the appropriate training, these supervisors will not be effective at identifying employment risks or handling employment complaints. Regular trainings are the only way to solve this problem. We’ve conducted countless trainings and seminars on a variety of employment topics. If you'd like to learn more about the trainings we offer, click the gold "Contact Us" button.
TIP 4: Audit Wage-and-Hour Practices
Wage claims are easily the most dangerous claims for employers to face primarily because any mistake, even an honest one, can result in mandatory triple damages awarded to the employee. The most common wage claims include those for unpaid overtime, unpaid bonuses, unpaid commissions, violations of the Massachusetts Tips Act, and non-payment for time worked, especially during scheduled breaks or off the clock. Here, again, the best offense is a good defense. We have considerable experience auditing an employer’s wage-and-hour practices to spot and correct issues before they become problems. Not sure if you are paying your employees correctly? Contact us to learn more.
TIP 5: Consult an Attorney Before Terminating or Disciplining
The majority of non-wage related risk appears at termination time. Here, one misstep can literally costs thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of dollars. At termination time, a seasoned and experienced employment attorney can spot the potential risk areas and work with you to accomplish your objective and minimize risk. We know what you are thinking: Sure, that sounds great, but isn’t it going to be expensive to call a lawyer every time we want to terminate someone? At Steffans Legal, we’ve created flexible and flat-fee billing arrangements to solve this dilemma. Why? Because we don’t want costs to prevent employers from making smart decisions.
TIP 6: CONDUCT MEANINGFUL EXIT INTERVIEWS
Exiting employees are more likely to tell you the truth about your workplace, including complaints they’ve heard, employees they believe are disgruntled, and problems they’ve witnessed in the workplace. Asking exiting employees the right questions is the first step to uncovering this helpful information. Training your supervisors on what to do with that information is equally as important.
TIP 7: Properly DOCUMENT Discipline
It’s an unfortunate reality that all employers, some more frequently than others, must terminate staff. The way to do this effectively and without unnecessary risk is to document the reasons for the discipline. If they are performance-based, each instance of that poor performance should be documented in real time and put in the personnel file. It's best to have a witness present when disciplining.
TIP 8: CONDUCT MEANINGFUL AND REGULAR Performance Evaluations
Employees frequently complain to us about not receiving regular and meaningful performance reviews. It matters to them and, as a result, it should matter to you. Regular and accurate performance evaluations are a healthy way to set expectations, correct bad performance, and reward good performance. Lastly, performance reviews take center stage when terminations are litigated and become the cornerstone of an employer’s defense. Now is the time to review your process of performance reviews to be sure it does all it can to avoid unnecessary risk.
TIP 9: Get Insurance
It’s called Employment Practices Liability Insurance (EPLI). It’s not that expensive and, believe us, it beats the alternative. Ask your insurance agent for more information, or contact us for potential options.