Here’s a list of steps you can take to head off human resources headaches in the new year:

1. Upgrade your harassment prevention, training and investigative program. After making sure you have the basic policy, forms and investigation notebook in place, be mindful that recent decisions indicate that failure to conduct a prompt and proper investigation may be grounds for a constructive-discharge claim.

2. Draft or update ADA-compliant job descriptions. These documents should serve as the foundation for all effective and defensible decisions involving hiring, performance evaluation, discipline, wage and hour status, promotions, return to duty, FMLA, safety-sensitive work, reasonable accommodations and discharge.

3. Implement an effective and defensible interviewing and hiring process. Dealing with the “bad hire” can be an expensive nightmare, but turnover is an expense you can control. Remember that past behavior is the best indication of future performance. A gut feeling is rarely legally defensible.

4. Employee handbooks and forms should be submitted for a compliance review every two years. Having the right policies and forms (application to separation, drug testing, FMLA, etc.) to deal with employee misconduct and provided government-mandated notices is critical to your overall risk-reduction program. PDF technology and electronically filable forms have made it more cost-effective to electronically distribute your handbook and forms.

5. Implement an effective and defensible discipline and termination process. Supervisory coaching on handling difficult employees has proven to be a good risk reduction investment. Not using an Alabama termination process checklist is playing Russian roulette where a jury keeps the score. Also, recognize how and when to use staged payment severance agreements to cut off your liability when you smell trouble.

6. Audit wage and hour classifications for legal compliance. With the new FLSA exempt-status regulations effective Jan. 1, 2020, and the multitude of misclassification lawsuits around the country, this is a wise risk-reduction strategy.

7. Conduct performance evaluation supervisory training. Grade inflation is a real risk that can come back to haunt you when an employee is terminated and the EEOC or a jury questions the decision in light of a five-star evaluation. Train your supervisors how to effectively conduct these evaluations with a human touch.

8. Training, training and more training. Effective supervisory training on hiring, discipline, harassment prevention, coaching employees, FMLA, litigation prevention, etc., is a must. Jury surveys continue to find that a company that fails to train is negligent.

9. Moneyball for employers 2020 — Capturing Millennials’ hearts and minds. Drop my legal assistant Joe Calvin an email at and we will get you an invite to the Jan. 28 EASHRM lunch meeting at 11:30 a.m. at Saugahatchee Country Club. There will be Constangy training by Jonathan Martin and me to answer whether Moneyball principles can be used in the workplace.

10. Diversity training is not only helpful in creating a team-oriented environment, it is a good risk- reduction strategy. Using training that can be replicated in the courtroom is sometimes the best way to display your good-faith efforts to prevent discrimination in the workplace.

Tommy Eden is a partner working out of the Constangy, Brooks, Smith & Prophete, LLP offices in Opelika office and can be contacted at or (334) 246-2901.

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