Consistency in approach is the hallmark to effective personnel administration, and it requires a sound foundation, well-trained personnel, and self-examination.
Foundation means human resources structure and processes. We routinely assist employers at all stages of development in creating the administrative and procedural scaffolding necessary to meet their ever-changing personnel needs and support growth. This involves checklists, policies and procedures (typically in the form of an employee manual), internal complaint procedures and reporting mechanisms, legal notices and other documents and processes. It also involves training insofar as the infrastructure, no matter how well constructed, is only as strong as the persons responsible for administering it. We train on all employment and labor issues, remotely or in person, with individuals or large groups, on substantive law and its practical application. Too often legal training is unnecessarily confusing and leaves participants more uncertain and concerned than before. By contrast, we demystify rules and issues, focus on providing an analytical approach, and leave staff more confident. Finally, there is the need for regular self-examination through periodic audits and required investigations. Audits help identify troubling practices and patterns that might otherwise go unnoticed and ripen into claims. They may be especially effective in relation to wage/hour practices, hire and fire decisions, consistency across accommodation issues, and protocols for protection of business assets. Investigations, of course, are often a necessary dimension of effective response to internal complaints or the proverbial red flags. Sometimes we conduct them. Sometimes we direct client staff in doing so. And sometimes we retain a third party for the role. We advise clients on the pros and cons of these different arrangements, recommend the appropriate one in any given situation, and manage the process from start to finish, addressing myriad questions along the way, such as: How do we conduct the investigation consistent with the company’s culture? What is the appropriate scope? Should it be done by or at the direction of counsel to preserve privilege? Should the investigator create only a factual record or also rendering findings? How much information may/should be provided to witnesses who are interviewed? When/where should interviews be conducted? May/will they be recorded? What if a witness wants his or her lawyer present or refuses to participate? Should witnesses be asked to sign statements? What if they refuse? Are personnel adjustments necessary before or during the investigation? Are Loudermill or Weingarten rights involved? Will there be a written investigative report? If so, who will have access to the report? How will the employer address concerns about retaliation?