Don’t fear employment law. Keep the compliance cops at bay by leading the charge on key issues. Here’s how to keep your legal safety net in a perfect position.
Make sure your employment- law attorney knows her stuff.
A good labor-law expert is an extension of management. She irons out wrinkles when your corporate culture clashes with state or federal requirements.
Post these posters
The U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires employers to post the OSHA “Job Safety and Health Protection Poster”. OSHA’s Web site also helps you determine which additional posters (minimum wage, equal employment opportunity, and the Family and Medical Leave Act) should be displayed.
Partner with a full- seer vice insurance broker
Don’t let paperwork and protocols distract you from your core business. Large insurance firms often have HR specialists to manage claims, update policy manuals, and provide benefits resources (on-site seminars, administration of 401(k)s, disability). They also administer risk-management services, such as OSHA compliance, on-site safety meetings, and training. For further questions, consult a reputable labor law or HR attorney.
Guard against defecting employees
We insisted that all our managers and top salespeople ink non-compete agreements. Why? Given their access to our playbook (the recipe to our secret sauce), we felt it was only fair for them to sit on the sidelines for a year after leaving. Non-competes typically state that the employee agrees not to join a direct competitor or start a competing business for an established time in a specific geographic area. The shorter the time period and the more restrictive the geographic area, the better your chance of enforcing the agreement in court.
Inform the employee during the interview process that a noncompeting is required for the position. Then get his John Hancock on it by his first day on the job. After that day, demanding a signature may jeopardize the enforceability of the non-compete due to the lack of “consideration” (something of value given to the employee in exchange for a contractual commitment not to compete). Potentially, the non-compete could be enforceable against a current employee if, at the time of signing, the employer gives the employee “new consideration,” such as a bonus or a right to buy stock. Check with an employment law attorney to confirm the adequacy of “consideration” and to ensure that the agreement is worded precisely.
Keep your trade secrets secret
Fired up about your breakthrough software? Or your cutting-edge widget design? Protect your competitive edge from corporate espionage with nondisclosure agreements (aka, NDA, confidentiality agreement, and trade-secret agreement). NDAs prohibit employees who sign them from disclosing or profiting from trade secrets or proprietary info gleaned in your office. The agreements also provide for business partners—you need their signatures, too. Even if the horse is already out of the barn, a court order can zip loose lips to prevent further leaks. You can also sue for damages or press criminal charges.
NDAs function as both stand-alone contracts and clauses within non-compete agreements. Like the non-compete, get the NDA signed, sealed, and delivered before the newbie clocks in on his first day. Go as far as attaching an NDA to the front of your business plan or strategic plan before circulating it. It’s a warning shot to ethically challenged readers. Do not, however, expect everyone to sign the agreements, although that does force a risk-reward decision.