Hiring a new employee is an expensive and time-intensive task for any business, but especially so for small businesses. You might have to take several hours out of your work day to write up a job description, advertise your listing online, and search through the dozens of applications you receive. Time is money, as they say. And because so much valuable time is spent during the hiring process, many business owners don’t want to spend more money on an employment lawyer.
But there are several ways in which you can get into legal trouble when you’re hiring new staff, and that’s why it’s important to have an employment lawyer on-hand during the hiring process. Here are 5 specific reasons why.
1. Administrative Tasks
When you hire a new employee, there are a fair amount of administrative tasks to be done, including:
- Obtaining a federal employment identification number from the IRS
- Registering the new employee with their state’s employment department
- Acquiring worker’s compensation insurance for new employee(s)
- Creating an Illness and Prevention Plan (for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration)
That’s a lot of work to get done. And it doesn’t help that government processes are oftentimes long and convoluted, and there’s little help you’ll get if you have legal questions or inquiries about documents and procedures. It’s nice to have an employment lawyer on your side who knows how employee onboarding works on the legal side of things, and who can help you with menial tasks like getting the right documentation.
That’s not to say that your employment lawyer will spend long hours on Microsoft Office doing HR work for your company. But if you have any questions about what you need to do or what documentation you need to get your new hire legally employed by the business, then your employment lawyer will be able to point you in the right direction.
If you’re going to be hiring someone who is not a citizen of the United States, your employment lawyer might be able to help you understand immigration laws that pertain to the hire.
Arguably the most important reason to hire an employment lawyer when you’re hiring is to avoid accusations of discrimination. As you may or may not know, when you hire a new employee you can’t discriminate on the basis of age, race, sex, disability, sexual orientation, and other things.
Most of the time, employers are accused of discrimination because they ask certain questions in the job interview that are inappropriate. Some of these questions include, but are not limited to:
- Marital status of applicant
- Applicant’s race
- Applicant’s religion
- Applicant’s sexual preference
- Applicant’s age
- Whether applicant suffers from a disability
- Applicant’s citizenship status
- Questions about drug or alcohol usage
An employment lawyer will help you avoid asking certain questions or from exhibiting attitudes that may open you up to a discrimination complaint.
3. Dealing with Criminal Histories
Before you give an offer letter to a job candidate, you should always run a criminal background check for employment. A background check will tell you whether or not the applicant has a criminal record.
If you choose not to hire a job applicant because of something revealed in their background check, you’re legally required to inform the applicant that they aren’t being hired for that reason. Failure to inform the applicant of a background check decision could put you in legal trouble. Use an employment lawyer to help you navigate those pitfalls.
4. Avoiding Implied Contracts
You might have to negotiate compensation with an applicant you’re going to hire. Some of the compensation items on the table could include:
- Stock options
- Health benefits
- Company perks
Compensation negotiations can turn messy if you’re not very careful about how you document agreements. Many employers make the mistake of making “verbal agreements” (also known as “implied contracts”) with employees that aren’t stipulated in writing, and this can become a source of dispute later on if the employee feels you aren’t giving them what you promised. Litigation can be long and financially taxing. That’s why you should always consult an employment lawyer when you’re negotiating compensation. An employment lawyer will help you document all agreed-upon salaries and benefits, and they’ll let you know when any of the provisions needs to be more clearly stipulated.
When you’re onboarding a new employee, you’ll have to collect some of their personal information, like their:
- Contact information
- Social Security Number
This is all very sensitive information, and if any of their information gets breached in any way then you might be liable for not properly protecting valuable documents. An employment lawyer can give you invaluable advice on how to protect the personal information of your staff so you don’t get sued.
Before you post your job listing online, you should really consider enlisting an employment lawyer to help you avoid litigation from things that happen during the hiring process. An employment lawyer just might be able to save your business a huge amount of money should any hiring go bad.