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Handling Challenging Situations in Today’s Complex and Dynamic Work Environment

Employers face numerous risks on a day-to-day basis. In order to manage these risks effectively, employers must first be aware that they exist and then implement appropriate tools and strategies that reflect the unique needs of their businesses.

5 Employment-Related Issues that Present Significant Risks for Employers

In today’s complex and dynamic workplace, the risks employers face are constantly changing. Although workplace risks vary by industry and type of business, the five issues outlined below are common among employers.  Effectively addressing these issues can help to significantly reduce employers’ risk of liability.

1. Claims for Negligent Hiring, Retention and Supervision

Employers can face liability for claims from employees and third parties based on allegations of negligent hiring, retention and supervision.  This includes claims for injuries sustained by co-workers, customers and other third-parties resulting from the intentional tortious conduct or negligence of employees.

2. Alcohol and Substance Abuse On and Off the Job

Employees who come to work under the influence can present risks to themselves and others.  In addition, studies have also proven that alcohol and substance abuse causes a significant reduction in workplace productivity.

3. Employees’ Social Media Use

Employees’ social media use will often blur the line between their professional duties and their personal lives.  Unauthorized disclosure of confidential information online is a significant concern for many companies.  Additional risks include damage to a company’s reputation as a result of inappropriate or unanticipated postings to social media sites.

4. Off-Duty Conduct

While employees’ off –duty conduct can have significant consequences for their employers, businesses often have little control over what their employees do after hours.  Illegal activity, relationships with co-workers and moonlighting are just a few of the numerous concerns.

5. Workplace Violence

Under federal law, employers have an obligation to maintain a workplace free from recognized hazards that cause serious physical harm. This duty includes maintaining a workplace free of violence.

Tools and Strategies for Mitigating Employers’ Risk of Liability

In order to manage these and other risks, employers must implement appropriate measures that are tailored to their operations, management structure and corporate culture. Examples of the measures companies can utilize to mitigate their employment-related risk include:

  • Timely and Well-Documented Discipline and Termination – In appropriate circumstances, employers should exercise their right to terminate at-will employees. In Pennsylvania, the at-will employment relationship permits for an employer to fire an employee for any reason, or no reason at all, so long as the action is not contrary to applicable state and federal anti-discrimination laws.
  • Reasonable Accommodations – Providing reasonable accommodations to employees with alcohol and substance abuse issues and other disabilities can not only help to resolve issues, but may also be legally required.
  • Alcohol and Substance Abuse Programs – For employers with sufficient resources, developing alcohol and substance abuse programs can often produce significant returns.
  • Last-Chance Agreements – In appropriate circumstances, employers can use “last-chance” agreements to address challenging issues while also preserving their right to terminate under the at-will employment relationship.
  • Employment Policies and Procedures – All employers should adopt comprehensive employment policies and procedures that establish clear rules and requirements for employee conduct.