How to Properly Manage Employee Workplace Violations

how to properly manage employee workplace violations

Examples of Workplace Violations

Employment law in the United States is incredibly complex, making preventing and addressing workplace violations difficult for your human resources department. Whether accidentally or intentionally committed, law violations can have disastrous consequences for your employees and your business.

There are many different types of workplace violations, ranging from employment discrimination to overtime pay refusal. Common workplace violations include-

  1. Unpaid vacation- Although the Fair Labor Standards Act does not require employees to be compensated for unused vacation time, some state labor laws do require compensation for unused vacation leave upon employee termination.

    Make sure your human resources department researches whether employees are entitled to their unused vacation time at the end of each year. States have strikingly different labor laws regarding unused yearly vacation leave. For example, in New York employers must formally notify employees if a business has a use it or lose it vacation leave policy.

  2. Misclassification- The Fair Labor Standards Act requires that employees receive overtime pay with certain exceptions. Overtime pay is not provided to exempt employees, so a misclassification could result in hours worked without overtime pay compensation.

    If an employee is misclassified as an independent contractor, they are not entitled to various benefits including unemployment, dental, or medical insurance.

  3. Uncompensated overtime- Overtime pay compensates certain employees for hours worked in addition to the standard 40-hour workweek. Employers must provide overtime pay that is 150% of an employee's regular hourly rate compensation.

    Compensatory time occurs when an employer offers paid time off instead of overtime pay compensation. The Fair Labor Standards Act states that compensatory time can only be provided to non-exempt workers within the same pay period that the overtime hours were worked.

    Not providing overtime pay to qualified employees is a major employment law violation. One sector of workers who are particularly prone to overtime law violations are undocumented workers, who may not feel safe reporting an employment law violation.

  4. Discrimination- Employment discrimination is a serious employment law violation that businesses must aggressively combat. Employment discrimination includes any unequal treatment that is based on an employee's-
  • National origin
  • Age
  • Race
  • Gender
  • Religion A common form of employment discrimination is sexual harassment.

    One sector of workers who are particularly vulnerable to sexual harassment are women in the workplace. Employees must be provided safe working conditions and discrimination or harassment at the workplace can quickly escalate into an occupational safety disaster if violations are not quickly and adequately addressed.

    Employers must make sure their human resources department has policies and protocol for any employment discrimination issue, and that everyone in the workplace actively and aggressively combats discrimination or harassment of any type.

How to Effectively Deal with Workplace Violations

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Employers must work with their human resources department to create workplace violation procedures. Proactive steps that employers can take to address workplace violations include-

1. Meeting- Set up a meeting with the employee who has committed the violation. Make sure another person is present, whether a human resources professional or for a small business perhaps a manager.

A third party serves as a crucial witness if a disciplined employee ever claimed in the future that they were treated unfairly or unprofessionally in the meeting. Important talking points for the meeting include clearly stating what policy was violated and how the violation could negatively impact your employees or business.

For example, an employee who engaged in an occupational safety violation could be educated about how their error could result in a workers compensation case for the company. Or an instance of harassment or discrimination that resulted in another coworker feeling their working conditions were no longer safe.

Make sure that you and the third party witness take notes throughout the meeting regarding the content of the conversation and have everyone sign and date the notes. In the case of continued workplace violations that result in the dismissal of an employee, these notes are invaluable to disputing any wrongful termination claims.

2. Discipline- Depending on what the workplace violation was, employers must decide what a fair punishment is. It is appropriate to ask employees what they think is an appropriate disciplinary measure for their violation.

For a more minor workplace violation, a formal warning may be appropriate, but for a major violation, termination may be necessary. For employees that are kept on staff, make sure to inform them about any future consequences for repeated violations.

If you or your human resources department are unsure how to handle a specific workplace violation it is always recommended that you obtain legal counsel. Legal counsel can help avoid future legal issues including wrongful termination lawsuits against your business.