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From the very scary small business story archives:
Back when I practiced law (not anymore, I came to my senses long ago, thank you very much), I had a client come into my office with a big problem. Michael had a very successful flooring business with two locations and about a dozen employees. He was a good boss, paid his people well, treated them fairly, had integrity, the whole nine yards.
Needless to say, Michael had never been sued. But there he was, sitting in front of me, sheet white and clutching a summons and complaint. Not only had a guy he barely knew filed a hiring-discrimination suit against him, but the guy’s lawyer had called Michael that day, threatening to close his business down, take his home, and much, much more. Michael was justifiably in a panic.
“I did nothing wrong!” he told me.
But when I queried him about his interactions with the plaintiff, Michael shared a different tale. Michael was hiring for a new sales position and this guy turned out to be one of the finalists. Michael interviewed the man and ended up asking a series of questions about the man’s religion. Now, I know Michael. Prejudiced he ain’t. As he told me at the time, “I was just interested in getting to known the guy better. It was very innocent.”
And yes, I am sure it was. But the problem was, the interviewee was sure it wasn’t and sued Michael for religious discrimination, claiming that Michael didn’t hire him because of his religion. Long story short, we settled out of court for a not-insignificant sum of money.
Lesson learned, the hard way.
Michael’s issue was one a lot of small business people have – they start a business, learn how to run it, wear a lot of hats, but eventually as it grows, fail to grow with it. By that I mean that Michael’s skill set was that of an entrepreneur with a new business, not that of a businessperson with a lager enterprise.
So, how do you know when you need human resources (HR) help with your small business? If you are reading this, you probably do. By that I mean that HR is one of those areas where you really can’t afford to make a mistake, because it can be both costly and time-consuming.
Let me suggest that, for most small businesses, HR assistance is needed in four areas:
1. Hiring and firing. Recruiting and interviewing are time consuming, yes, and also must be done properly, legally. You may know a lot of things as a businessperson, but it is probably also true that the ins and outs of hiring and firing may not be in your wheelhouse.
But they are in the wheelhouse of HR pros.
2. Staying legal: Beyond that, professional HR assistance helps you
- Be complaint with federal and state laws
- Understand health and safety (OSHA) regulations
- Stay complaint with regard to minimum wage and pay requirements
- Avoid litigation
3. Employee files: As I discussed in a previous post, employers need to keep all sorts of records with regard to their employees. This can be very cumbersome, unless you get some help.
The good news is, help is available. My friends at HRDirect created a great, intuitive, easy-to-use app that makes managing employee information quick and simple. As the administrator, you get complete e-access to your staffs’ personnel files, including:
- Employee Profiles (full name, birthday, photo, emergency contacts)
- Home & Work Information (address, phone number, email)
- Job Details (title, department, location, supervisor)
- Payroll Details (salary, pay rate, overtime classification)
- Healthcare Coverage (enrollment date, cost)
4. Handbooks, policies and manuals: As they grow, most small businesses learn that they need to not only create HR policies, but those policies need to be codified in a manual or handbook, distributed to employees, and reinforced as time goes by. Again, this is both a complex legal issue as well as a time-consuming, physical one, and again, this is where getting professional HR help makes a lot of sense.
They good news is that, by getting the HR help you need now, you won’t need legal help later.