Taking Stock: An Internal Assessment.

When we were in elementary school, our teachers repeated a time-honored cycle: teach, review, assess.  They exposed us to new information, we discussed its application and then, on Friday, they would sit us down, admonish us to keep our eyes on our own paper, and they would test our ability to apply the information learned.

The end of these stressful moments is one of the things we celebrated at graduation when caps went flying.  Tests are unpleasant, right?  No sane person would actually volunteer to subject themselves to tests as an adult, would they?

Yet that is exactly what I suggest you do.  Think about this:

When was the last time you did that for your business?  When was the last time you took a minute to sit and reflect on what you are doing well and where you could improve? 

Running a business is relentless work.  Finding time to run performance down a scorecard is difficult, but necessary.

I suggest that you craft a schedule for auditing your internal processes and procedures, and stick to it.  Consider the following components of your employment practices and whether they could use a periodic review:

·       Job descriptions.  Do they actually reflect the duties performed? Do they comply with the Fair Labor Standards Act? Do they outline the essential functions of the position such that they would be useful in determining reasonable accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act?

  • Employee Handbook.  Does your handbook provide useful information for employees? Is it accurate?  Do you have clear written polices about Equal Employment Opportunity policies, a prohibition against discrimination, harassment and workplace violence, required leaves, accommodations for nursing mothers, a complaint procedure, PTO accrual, dress code, drugs, alcohol and weapons on site, benefits and other important topics?
  • Wage Policies.  Do you have a clear understanding of when wages are earned, vested and determinable?  Do your pay structures comply with the Fair Labor Standards Act?
  • Training.  Do your supervisors have guidance about how to handle performance issues, harassment complaints, off-color jokes, threatening comments, employees with disabilities, team management and conflicts of interest?
  • Disaster Preparedness.  Do you have clear evacuation plans, in the event of an emergency?  How would you handle a threat on site?  What if there were a regional emergency, do you have a plan for temporary office space, or will you remain closed down?
  • Onboarding and Termination.  Do you have clear patters for interviewing candidates, and integrating them into your workplace?  In the event that things do not work out, do you have procedures in place for employees who leave?
  • Documents.  Do you have a document maintenance and destruction policy? How do you maintain your personnel files? What documents are kept there and which are in confidential files or document-specific files like I-9 binders?
  • Confidential Information.  Do you have contracts with employees that regulate what they can and can not share about their work life, outside of the office?  Do you have other appropriate security measures in place to protect confidential and proprietary information? Are you confident that your polices conform to the requirements of the National Labor Relations Act and its recent decisions concerning employee protected, concerted activity and social media?

Conducting an internal HR Audit can be time-consuming and can create ripples in internal politics.  These challenges, however daunting, are small when compared to the time and effort involved in defending a lawsuit and dealing with resulting fallout.

Laura J. Hazen is a co-founder of the law firm of H&K Law, LLC.  In her employment practice, Hazen provides day-to-day advice and coaching to public and private companies on various employment matters.  She also has an active litigation practice where she concentrates on representing business in all aspects of complex business and employment disputes.  You can contact her by email at lhazen@hklawllc.com or by phone at 303.749.0649.

This article is intended as a general discussion and information on the topic covered, and is not to be construed as rendering legal advice.  If legal advice is needed, you should consult an attorney.  This article may not be reprinted or reproduced in any manner without prior written permission of the author.

© 2014 H&K Law, LLC.  These materials may not be reproduced in any way without the written permission of H&K Law, LLC.