January 12, 2006Client Alert

2006 Workplace Resolutions

Each year we all make New Year's Resolutions to eat healthier, exercise, and take better care of our finances. However, we rarely implement workplace resolutions and thus, often suffer from the New Year hangover. While this time of the year is great for setting personal goals, we shouldn't neglect our workplace resolutions. Why? Well, surprisingly, one study last year noted that nearly one in six American workers believe they have experienced employment discrimination. Couple this fact with some of the outrageous verdicts and settlements of 2005, including the $172 million award against Wal-Mart, and it becomes easy to see why employers should take heed. In order to protect your company, here are just a few helpful suggestions:

Get an Annual Employment Relations Physical

Just like going to the doctor, it's much easier to get regular check-ups to ensure your policies and procedures are “healthy", rather than waiting for a problem to become "life-threatening" for your business. You should review, and if necessary, update all policies and procedures, including: employee handbooks, job applications and descriptions, offer letters and employment contracts, compensation and benefit plans, discipline and discharge procedures, and ensure that you are properly following all state and federal record-keeping requirements. Human resource audits are an excellent way to ensure that not only are all policies and procedures in place, but are
current with ever-changing law.

Train and Re-Train Managers

Even if you have textbook written policies and procedures, you are subject to exposure if your front-line managers do not implement them, or do so unfairly or improperly. Inconsistency on the part of managers leads to litigation. You should recognize that your managers are usually the ones who receive requests for disability accommodations or family and medical leaves, are first notified of sexual harassment complaints, and are likely to be the person terminating employees for whatever reason. Be sure that they are trained to respond
appropriately to these often difficult situations.

Comply with the New Wage and Hour and USERRA Regulations

Just because you pay someone a "salary," does not mean that they are exempt. If you have any employees who are improperly classified, you could be subject to liability. Take the time to evaluate all positions to ensure that your employees meet the new salary and duties tests for each exemption.

Similarly, employers should be aware of the new regulations issued by the Department of Labor regarding the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994, which become effective in late January of 2006. The regulations implement the statutory requirements of USERRA and interpret the previously problematic areas of the law.

Update Non-Competition Agreements

When properly drafted, non-competition agreements protect employers. They protect employers from employees taking confidential information to competitors. They also can prohibit employees from unlawfully competing or soliciting clients or prospects away from your business. However, they can provide a false sense of security when poorly drafted or not updated in this ever-changing area of the law. If you have not updated your non-competition agreements in a few years, now would be the best time.

For more information, please contact Scott C. Baumbach at or 262.956.6543.

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