We spend one-third of each day, or more, at work, so we all want to make it a comfortable part of our lives. But as in other areas of life, there are potential legal pitfalls at places of employment that can cause long-term career, personal, and even legal difficulties. Here are five tips for protecting yourself from legal issues while you are at work.
Maintain a Professional Demeanor
Everyone forms friendships at work, but it’s important to be professional at all times in the workplace. Inappropriate jokes, for example, can be construed as sexual harassment, racial bias, or contributing to a hostile work environment. Your colleagues may seem to appreciate your sense of humor, but if you have any doubts about how a particular remark will be received, err on the side of caution and keep it to yourself. Saying even the most innocent of remarks can end up with someone getting offended and you needing to hire a local lawyer in Encinitas. CA.
Avoid Workplace Romances
Dating a colleague – or worse, a subordinate – is a tenuous situation at best. Even if the relationship goes well, your behavior could be construed as detrimental to others in the workplace if you are perceived as showing favoritism to your romantic partner. If the romance sours, you could be hit with a sexual harassment lawsuit; even if that does not happen, your every action will be considered suspect with respect to the other person. For example, if the company has to defend itself against a lawsuit, you might have to disclose your workplace dalliance in a deposition or even in open court. Your actions could compromise the company’s position, cause yourself and others profound embarrassment, and derail your career.
If you signed a non-disclosure or confidentiality agreement, this is of particular importance because your commitment to the company has been documented in writing. Even if you didn’t, keep in mind that your work product is owned by the company. If you “repackage” anything and try to resell it as your own, the company could file a lawsuit against you. Also, be circumspect with the company’s clients and customers; don’t promote your own business or offer to do similar work “on the side” for a lower fee.
Document, Document, Document
This is particularly important if you handle money or sensitive information as part of your duties. The appearance of impropriety must be avoided with documentation of your daily activities. If the company thinks that you stole from them, you could be accused of embezzlement or another crime. Being able to prove that you carefully followed the company’s policies and procedures will be extremely helpful if you have to defend yourself against this type of accusation.
Treat Your Employees with Respect
It’s very easy for a disgruntled employee to decide that the best way to feel better about quitting or being fired is to file a lawsuit against the company. If that happens, you will not want to contribute to the company’s vulnerability by serving as evidence that the company treats its employees poorly. When you have to discipline employees, remain objective about the problem and the necessary improvements; don’t attack the employee personally. Document the issue and your coaching efforts and speak to the employee with a representative from Human Resources present in case there are questions later.
Following these tips will help you have a positive experience in your current role and use it as an opportunity to further your career and improve your quality of life.