Small Business Employment Issues - Free Enterprise

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As an employer, facing lawsuits from current or former employees may be an unavoidable consequence of doing business. Sometimes, however, lawsuits are the direct result of an employer hiring a bad, or maybe just naive, boss.

There are countless reasons why employees decide to sue. For employers and bosses, both new and old, the following five tips will provide some guidance on how to avoid employee lawsuits.

For years, Uber has been held up as the model for tech startups: a case study in "disruption." But as much as other companies have tried to learn from its success, the ridesharing giant has also provided some valuable lessons in what not to do.

Case in point: Last week, a former Uber engineer Susan Fowler published a withering blog post about her time at the company, extensively detailing numerous instances of sexual discrimination and harassment. While Uber might have been right in hiring former U.S. attorney general Eric Holder to investigate Fowler's allegations, the company's initial responses to her claims were anything but.

A recently filed lawsuit that involves the Hooters restaurant chain, sex discrimination, and retaliation, has been making headlines. But unlike the discrimination and retaliation lawsuits against Hooters we've become accustomed to seeing as a result of the adult entertainment aspect of the establishment, the restaurant isn't actually being sued here. Rather, a biomedical company is in the hot-seat due to a senior vice president's request to hold a meeting at a Hooters restaurant.

The high ranking executive proposed having a one-on-one lunch meeting with a female employee at Hooters. As shocking as that may be, in and of itself, what's more is that the executive allegedly stated that he liked the restaurant because he liked being served by attractive women. Although the employee suggested an alternative, and the meeting was not actually held at the Hooters, the employee, and her boss, were both terminated shortly after she filed a complaint about the proposed meeting location.

President Trump has been bullish on immigration reform, even if his efforts thus far have been more reminiscent of a bull in a china shop. After an initial executive order banning refugees and even visa holders from seven majority Muslim countries was blocked by federal courts, Trump is looking to re-issue a revised order and appears to be targeting other immigration programs as well.

Next up on the chopping block might be the H1-B visa program, through which American business -- many of them the biggest tech firms in the country -- can hire skilled foreign workers. Last month, White House press secretary Sean Spicer said a possible executive order on work visas "is part of a larger immigration effort" based on "an overall need to look at all of these measures." So what could H1-B visa reform mean for your small business or startup?

Email. Social media. Even personal cell phones. There is a lot of employee activity that employers my legally monitor. But what about their actual movements throughout the office? Most employers can install and run video surveillance in the office, but that's yesterday's technology. Nowadays, bosses have employee badges fitted with microphones and sensors that can track physical and verbal interactions, all through an app.

So is this kind of movement monitoring legal? And does it depend on the reasoning behind the surveillance?

Unicorns, at least in venture capital circles are very real. Defined as a startup that hasn't actually brought a product to market, yet is somehow valued at more than $1 billion, unicorns have real employees, and thus real employee problems. And Magic Leap, "one of the most well-funded startups of all time," looks like it has more real problems than most.

Tannen Campbell, Magic Leap's former Head and Vice President of Strategic Marketing and Brand Identity who was hired to make the company and its products more female-friendly, is now suing the company, claiming "hostile environment sex discrimination and retaliation." Her lawsuit is a laundry list of inappropriate comments, behavior, and sexual stereotypes in the tech industry, and even includes some discussion of wizards.

Running a business and being the boss has its challenges. One common struggle small business owners face involves firing employees who struggle with personal issues, illness, or disability. Sometimes an employee's illness or disability can lead to work rules violations, such as missing work unannounced or taking additional break-time. This is common for sufferers of anxiety and depression.

In addition to worrying about the health consequences of firing an ill employee, you may also worry about legal consequences involved. Can you get sued? This may especially be a worry if the employee requested a reasonable accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Fortunately, a recent federal appellate decision in favor of AT&T can provide much needed guidance to employers both small and large facing this sort of situation.

Not every job pays all the bills. And not every full-time job leads to emotional fulfillment. That means that employees will be eyeing other opportunities, and in some cases working those jobs concurrently with full-time employment. These days more people than ever have some sort of gig on the side, and whether that side business is profitable or not could mean a huge difference come tax time.

So how can employees make sure their side business is legal? And how can employers deal with the side businesses of their staff?

You got your employees in the office, so now how do you keep them in line? You'd hope that the interview process would've weeded out any bad apples, but even a good egg can have a bad day. So how do you punish a misbehaving employee without incurring his or her legal wrath?

Here's how to discipline employees, legally, from personnel policies to social media suspensions.

People are people, and crying is something that people do. Literally, there is a connection between the brain and the tear ducts that gets triggered during severe emotional reactions. As people, when we see another person crying, that alone can trigger an emotional response. In an office or work environment, a crying employee can be both a cause for concern and a disruption.

As a manager or business owner, or even a fellow employee, if you see an employee or co-worker crying, knowing what to do could be critical, both for the crying employee and business. If an employee is crying at work, an employer does not act out of line by offering support, but if the employer isn't careful, a situation can be made worse.

Below are 3 tips on how to handle a crying employee.