How can you protect and preserve your bottom line from costly legal action?

“Employees’ rights are stronger than ever before,” warns Howard Levitt of Levitt & Grossman LLP. And, “Preventative action costs less than the legal fees associated with damage control,” explains Levitt. How can you protect and preserve your bottom line from costly legal action?

1. Use employment contracts. Remember this is a contract under law and not something you should be doing yourself. Levitt references a CEVA case, where employee Bruce Rodgers was awarded $345,985 as a result of a poorly drafted employment agreement. HR pros can help, we draft all sorts of employment contacts; eg. contracts for fulltime, casual, contract, part time and intern positions.

2. Document everything. In HR if it isn’t documented it didn’t happen! If you plan on terminating someone for poor performance or history you will need to show that they were historically aware of the situation, that they were progressively warned that failure to improve and maintain improvement would result in termination, and that you, the employer, tangibly attempted to assist the employee with improvement. HR pros can help you here. We have training to help supervisors understand what, when and how to document. Training can be delivered via classroom or remotely via the web.

3. Take complaints seriously. In a high-profile case with Walmart, harassed employee Meredith Boucher was awarded $410,000 by the Ontario Court of Appeal. The company failed to investigate Boucher’s claims appropriately and paid the price. Investigations are not be handled in a laissez faire nature. Before undertaking any investigation you should have written terms of reference. And, investigations must be completed with a sense of urgency. Have a complaint? Not sure how to handle it? Contact HR pros and let us help.

4. Educate managers, supervisors and employees on the rules of the workplace.   It is not enough to simply hand off the Employee Personnel Manual and tell folks they are to follow the rules. Courts call this passive enforcement and frown upon it. Have a robust new hire orientation program. Conduct regular training on the rules of the workplace. Train managers and supervisors on the importance of fairly administering the rules. Train, train, train. Want to build a training calendar for 2015 to ensure everyone knows what they have to know? Contact HR pros and we’ll help you sort out your training priorities.

5. Conduct appraisals. Our experience is that most people want to do a good job and take pride in doing a good job. However, if they don’t know what is not good about their performance or their behaviour they cannot improve. A performance appraisal is a necessary business tool; it lets the employee know in writing how they are doing, it is a mechanism to plan for improvement, it support company decisions (eg. promotions, terminations, pay increases, etc) and when administered correctly it motivates your employee base to be productive and efficient. Don’t have a performance appraisal system? Contact HR pros for performance management strategies that will work in your workplace.

6. Stop seeing OHS as a cost centre. Safety is not about compliance, rather compliance is a by-product of concerted effort. Safety is really about family, friends, and company levity. When a workplace is not safe there is poor morale, low productivity and potential fines. Not sure what safety programming your workplace requires? Let us help you identify areas of concern and suggest what you need.    

HR pros is a full-service HR, OHS and training consulting company bringing best practice HR, training and OHS strategies to small businesses and the not-for-profit sector. We ascribe to the KISS theory; keep it simple silly! Need more information? Contact Sylvain at or 902.877.1887

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