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How to avoid common employee-related legal issues

If you're in the process of starting a business, you probably know that one lawsuit can seriously impact your bottom line -- and possibly even put you out of business. Many of these lawsuits can be avoided by following the law and having processes in place to deal with issues before they end up in court. That's why it's essential to have experienced legal guidance from the beginning.

Some of the leading causes of legal problems for small businesses involve employee issues. Let's look at a few of them.

Discrimination/Harassment

It's illegal for any company in Ohio with at least four employees to discriminate in hiring or any other aspect of employment against people on the basis of race, sex, national origin or ancestry, religion, disability, military status or age (over 40). Make sure that everyone who handles hiring and disciplinary actions understands these protections. You also want to be sure that no one behaves towards subordinates or colleagues in a way that makes them feel as though they're the victim of discrimination or harassment.

When an employee reports alleged discrimination or harassment, it's imperative that the allegations are thoroughly investigated and that you take action against anyone who's guilty of it. Harassment can be sexual in nature, based on a person's characteristics or bullying for the sake of bullying.

Terminations

While employees need to have grounds to sue for wrongful termination, you can minimize the likelihood that they'll take such action by ensuring that they understand why they're being fired or let go. The reasons (such as poor performance) should be fully documented. Make sure that they understand them and that the documents they sign upon their termination stipulate their understanding.

Immigration issues

You need to have systems in place to verify that everyone you hire is eligible to legally work in this country. They don't need to have been born here or be a citizen. However, they must have the proper documentation to prove their eligibility to work in the job they're doing. If you're the subject of a government audit, you need to be able to show that you did the proper background checks.

Any of these problems can be not only financially costly, but can seriously harm or even destroy your business's reputation. An experienced attorney can help you prevent these problems and work to defend you if you do face litigation.

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