It’s no secret that one of the biggest business challenges that employers have faced through the COVID-19 pandemic is finding, employing and retaining workers. It’s been breathlessly reported that the “Great Resignation” has resulted in workers—across industries and job types—dropping out of the workforce. In September, according U.S. Department of Labor, 4.43 million workers quit their jobs.
When it comes to tackling your business’ employment challenges, an experienced employment attorney who thinks strategically and proactively on your behalf can be integral to helping you address these issues. Here are some of the key areas your lawyer can (and should) help with.
Employment Handbook or Policies
Many employers have increased compensation in order to attract workers. That may work, up to a point. But we know that many other factors—such as autonomy, finding meaning in work, flexibility, and camaraderie, to name a few—also play an important role in job satisfaction.
Another factor that leads to a satisfied workforce, especially in times of uncertainty, is having a clear understanding of workplace rules and company expectations as to performance. Most people want to feel grounded in their jobs, as opposed to working in an unstructured, chaotic environment.
That’s why it’s important to have employment handbooks in place, which help set worker expectations, and also assist in enforcing rules and disciplining or terminating employees, as necessary. A handbook can also serve as protection in defending employment litigation.
Your employment attorney should also be assisting you in onboarding key employees by drafting employment contracts. Often, these contracts should cover more than just compensation and benefits. In many cases—particularly for companies rich with trade secrets and competitive labor markets—it’s advisable for them to include a confidentiality clause, non-compete and non-solicitation clauses, and remedies that benefit the company in the event the employee breaches any of them.
In Michigan, a company’s unemployment rating is based on the number of unemployment claims made by former employees. Not all unemployment claims are legitimate. If the cost for unemployment insurance is important to your company, of if employees making claims were terminated for gross misconduct, or because they actually abandoned or quit their position, challenging these unemployment claims can be beneficial to your business.
Preventive Lawyering in Terminations
Sometimes an employer needs to terminate an employee. An employer nearly always has a legitimate reason to do so, but it is not always evident to the employee or to a third party examining the issue. Before terminating an employee, consult with your attorney to identify any risk in doing so and how to mitigate the risk of litigation in the future.
It’s far more efficient to keep good employees than to constantly hire and train new ones. Your lawyer can assist you in drafting incentive plans that both motivate and retain your current workforce. By documenting rewards being offered to important team members, you will ensure both sides have a clear understanding of the incentives and the expectations around them.
Given the challenges of recruiting full-time workers, your business may need to use more freelance workers to fill in the gaps and get work done. Your attorney can help you utilize freelance workers without running afoul of classification rules (i.e., misclassifying an employee as a freelancer). Misclassification can lead to significant financial penalties.
COVID-19 Rules and Regulations
As depressing as it might be to consider, it seems clear that Michigan employers will continue to deal with COVID-19-related workplace safety issues in 2022. From vaccine mandates to workplace cleaning requirements and more, your employment attorney can help your business understand and remain compliant with its obligations.
For questions or assistance with any of these or other employment-law related issues, please contact Zana Tomich, co-founder of the law firm Dalton & Tomich.