Archive October 2013 XIV, No. 10

Legal Update: Test Your HR IQ

Let's brush up on labor and employment laws.

Matthew Collins, JD


human resources HUMAN RESOURCES A familiarity with the laws governing employee relations can prevent personnel pitfalls.

Of the many roles you play at your facility, human resources manager might be the most difficult to master. Staying current on constantly changing labor and employment laws can be a full-time job in itself. But you can't afford to neglect your obligations as an employer. Even unintentional and unknowing violations could spark costly litigation or government investigation. Here are 10 common problem areas to address.

Employee background checks. Background checks must comply with the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act. This law requires you to provide applicants with a written disclosure, and to obtain their consent, before conducting background checks. It also requires you to provide written notice to the applicant before taking any adverse action as a result of the check. Make sure you're using FCRA- and state-law-compliant application forms.

Pre-employment inquiries and hiring decisions. Numerous laws prohibit asking certain questions and/or relying on certain information obtained through an application, background check or interview when making a hiring decision. For example, rejecting an applicant due to an arrest record might in some situations be viewed as racial discrimination. Soliciting information that directly or indirectly suggests an applicant's gender, race, national or ethnic origin, disability, religion or other protected classification can also be legally actionable. Be aware of such off-limits questions and details before filling your next job opening.

Responding to employee complaints. Surgery's a high-pressure job. It's not uncommon to witness flaring tempers, raised voices or obscene language. Such an environment is ripe for employee complaints. You can be held liable for failing to properly respond to reports of alleged harassment. Additionally, complaints about patient care, workplace safety or wage-and-hour law violations may trigger legal obligations under federal and state whistleblower laws. Take your staff's complaints seriously by investigating and, where necessary, applying remedial action.

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