WHILE MANY BUILDERS SEE RISK IN terms of land position, inefficient supply chains, or too shallow talent pools, they may overlook a loophole in their employment policies that could cost big bucks. San Diego attorney Janice Brown, who specializes in employment law and business, gives tips on how to minimize that risk.
Take a long-term view on employment laws. Builders should deal with potential employment law challenges or chance shelling out the big bucks in court. “Most lawsuits—even if you prevail—easily cost hundreds of thousands of dollars,” Brown says.
Provide harassment training to all employees. Although many states require employees to have a minimum number of hours of sexual harassment training, additional training can't hurt. Many law firms or employment practices companies offer training for anywhere between $2,500 and $5,000, depending on the size of the company, Brown says.
Maintain an updated harassment policy. “Employment law is one of the fastest-moving areas in law, so laws are changing all the time,” Brown says. She recommends updating policies every year or two.
Have a clearly defined e-mail policy. “[Employees often] treat e-mail as if it's a private conversation, but it's not,” Brown says. Builders can combat improper e-mails by educating employees about the repercussions of the misuse of company resources.
Address harassment issues with non-employees. Builders are responsible for the work environment, even if it extends beyond the primary workplace, says Brown. They should always be prepared to deal with harassment issues.
Implement an arbitration program. Employers must foot the bill and cannot appeal the decision, but arbitration alleviates many lawsuit costs and delays by settling out of court. “Because builders are perceived as deep pockets, arbitration reduces that potential [of paying exorbitant damage awards],” says Brown.