Legal claims filed by employees can present serious issues for employers in the New York City area. Not only can they result in costly litigation, they can also leave a significant impact on employee morale in general and the way that the public perceives your company.
Fortunately, a well-crafted employee handbook can help prevent issues from arising in the first place. They can also help limit liability in the event of problems.
At-Will Employment Provisions
New York is an “at-will” employment state. This means that either the employer or employee can terminate the employment relationship at any time and without cause. The one caveat to this statement is that employers cannot terminate the employment relationship for a reason prohibited by law, such as discrimination based on certain characteristics or in retaliation for participating in certain legally protected activities.
While this is the default rule, adding a provision in the employee handbook clarifying that the employment relationship is at-will can provide additional legal protection. A terminated employee will have a harder time claiming that a discharge breached an employment agreement.
Setting General Expectations
Disputes between employees and employers may arise because of unclear expectations. An employee handbook can ensure that employees know their responsibilities and what to expect from their employers. Setting these expectations at the outset of the relationship can avoid disputes from arising in the first place and can also act as a defense should future litigation arise.
When an employee makes a formal hostile work environment or sexual harassment complaint, employers have opportunities to address the matter. A robust anti-sexual harassment policy and a clearly defined response to claims of harassment may form an affirmative defense that could prevent an employer from facing liability.
An employee handbook should clearly define a hostile work environment and sexual harassment, provide clear instructions as to how to report alleged instances of harassment, and describe how the business will respond to legitimate claims of sexual harassment.
These are just a few of the areas in which an employee handbook can help New York employers limit liability. For more information, employers should reach out to an employment lawyer who is licensed in their jurisdiction.
Call a New York Employment Attorney Today to Learn More
Employing others involves inherent legal risks. Fortunately, employers can limit their liability and reduce the risk of employee-initiated litigation. New York City employment lawyer Adam Braverman may review your employment practices and recommend and assist in implementing actionable steps that will limit your employment-based liability. To schedule a consultation with Mr. Braverman, call (212) 206-8166 or send him an email through his online contact form.