Dos and Don’ts for Employers:
Do: Keep thorough records. Small business owners should maintain records on their number of employees, payroll, tax records, days and hours worked, disciplinary actions, and termination reasons. All of this can protect your if a claim is ever filed against your business.
Don’t: Panic if a claim is filed against you—just make sure to respond within the timeframe listed with as much documentation as possible.
Do: Maintain an employee manual that lists all policies and practices of the business. It is crucial that you follow your own policies because they are only useful if applied consistently and fairly.
Don’t: Apply your policies inconsistently or unfairly. Creating rules and maintaining a handbook is only useful to business owners if the polices are continuously followed and equally applied to all employees.
Do: Get insurance. There are several different kinds of insurance that a business owner should consider. Workers compensation insurance is required by state law when a business has two or more employees and protects against claims from employees for occupational disease and injuries from accidents. General liability insurance should cover vicarious liability for an employee’s negligence. This may arise if the employer authorized the negligent act or should have known of the employee’s unfitness or bad habits—so make sure to thoroughly screen all new hires. Finally, automobile insurance may be necessary if employees have to drive as part of their job because personal auto insurance policies usually exclude driving when the vehicle is engaged in commercial activities.
Don’t: Be afraid to ask for help! Starting and owning a business is hard work with a lot of intricacies. The best way to be protected against any potential legal landmines is to consult with an attorney who specializes in business, employment, or labor law.
Dos for Employees:
Do: Know your rights. There are many federal and state laws that protect employees from problems like wage theft, discrimination, and retaliation. For example, the Fair Labor Standards Act creates the right to a minimum wage and “time-and-a-half” overtime when you work more than forty hours a week. Additionally, the Equal Pay Act, Civil Rights Act, Americans with Disabilities Act, and Age Discrimination in Employment act each prohibit discrimination in hiring, payment, and firing of an individual in a protected class. These are just a few of the laws that exist to protect employees. Knowing and understanding employment laws like these is critical and can help you advocate for yourself if necessary. To learn more about employee rights in North Carolina, visit LawHelpNC.org for resources and to see when the next Legal Aid Employee Rights Clinic is being held.
Do: Get in touch with your local Equal Employment Opportunity Commission if you think you have been discriminated against by an employer, labor union, or employment agency when you were applying for a job or on the job. This discrimination could be based on your race, color, sex, religion, national origin, age, or disability. There are EEOC offices in nearby in Charlotte, Raleigh, Greensboro, Greenville, Norfolk, and Richmond that you may schedule an appointment with at publicportal.eeoc.gov.