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What corporate legal lessons did you learn in 2012?
It's been a busy year for general counsel, as we witnessed an international patent war waged between two of the biggest tech companies in the world and the EEOC having perhaps its busiest year ever enforcing discrimination laws, just to name a few newsworthy developments.
While there are undoubtedly some stories and events you will want to forget from 2012 (such as general counsel salaries falling), here are the Top 10 lessons all GCs will want to remember:
- Be proactive in avoiding personal liability for corporate actions. GCs are now being targeted personally for a company's alleged wrongs. Fortunately, there are some steps you can take to avoid being sent to the slammer.
- Have social media policy in place. If your employees weren't on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram in 2011, they most likely hopped on board the social media bandwagon in 2012. Every company needs a social media policy to avoid embarrassing incidents.
- Stop employee violence. Mass shootings are dominating the news as 2012 comes to a close. Oftentimes, these shootings occur at workplaces. Be prepared and stop potentially violent encounters.
- Evaluate your contractors. Your independent contractors may actually be your employees, according to the law. Many employers only discover this after expensive lawsuits have been filed. Don't wait until that happens.
- Be kind to your elders. Age discrimination is an age-old issue, and it's alive and well in many industries. It may not get the same attention as race or sex discrimination, but it's illegal all the same.
- Don't retaliate. On the subject of overlooked discrimination claims, you should know that retaliation claims were the most commonly fielded complaints by the EEOC, surpassing complaints based on an employee's race, sex, and disability.
- Don't hate me because I'm beautiful (or ugly). While not all "beauty bias" is illegal, it may signal other forms of discrimination and can get your company sued.
- Check references. With some lawyerly tact, you can actually use pre-employment reference checks to learn something meaningful about a job candidate without landing in legal hot water.
- Pay overtime. While discrimination claims get the bulk of the attention, you should be aware that wage and hour claims can result in significantly larger damage awards.
- Pay your attorneys. Sometimes, it's worth paying your attorneys $1,200 an hour.
This is just a sample of the many corporate legal lessons we've covered in 2012. Keep this In House blog and our Corporate Counsel Center bookmarked as we continue to track the important trends affecting in-house counsel.