Whether you’re ensuring corporate compliance, drafting your terms and conditions, or considering changing your company’s name, running a company means you will run into complicated legal issues that will lead you to seek outside counsel. So why wouldn’t this be the case with your human resources department as well?
Every human resources (HR) team has multiple purposes. One is to recruit and hire new employees. Another is to educate employees on their benefits, such as health insurance and retirement plans. Another is to foster a safe, healthy, and productive work culture. HR should be keenly aware of federal and state employment laws, particularly those regarding discrimination. This department leads the way on ensuring everyone in the business adheres to these laws and any other company policies. Additionally, HR is there to protect the business. If a complaint is made, HR must handle it in a way that produces the least risk for the business. All of these functions are better supported when HR has outside legal counsel to advise them.
Businesses need to pay attention to many employment laws. As a small business with only a couple of employees, it may not have to adhere to certain regulations, like federal overtime rules or offering health insurance. However, as businesses expand and take on more employees, there are more laws to keep up with.
- Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964
- Fair Labor Standard Act (FLSA)
- Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)
- Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
- Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA)
- Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA)
- Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA)
- Workers’ Compensation Act
- Equal Pay Act (EPA)
- Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA)
A small internal HR department may not be able to do it all, particularly when many federal and state laws are changing in recent years. Some career advice blogs suggest that HR departments should consult with a lawyer with everything from introducing new company policies to writing the company handbook. Having outside counsel ensures HR is always up to date on employment laws that impact the business.
Strong Employee Policies
To remain compliant with all state and federal employment laws, businesses need strong company policies. They need recruiting and hiring procedures in place that avoid discrimination. They need a clear employee handbook to ensure every employee is well aware of the law and additional company policies and the potential penalties for violating those rules, such as when an employee may be fired.
Outside counsel helps businesses develop company policies and draft an employee handbook that ensures the workplace culture fosters productivity, reduces employee turnover, and limits potential legal claims.
When an employee goes to HR with a potentially serious complaint, sometimes the best thing to do is to hand the issue over to a professional outside of the business. Having outside counsel ensures someone who is objective and has the business’ best interests in mind investigates the complaint. An independent attorney can recommend the best course of action based on the law and most recent relevant court cases.
The bottom line is that employment law is exceedingly complicated. Having a law firm already involved with the business ensures that if an administrative or legal complaint arises, the business has experienced legal representation ready to defend it.