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HR Insights with Ali: Reduce Lawsuits by Focusing on Fairness

Posted on 7/5/2017 by Ali Oromchian, Esq.
We’ve all heard the adage since we were children: Life isn’t fair. And while this sentiment may be shown to be true throughout our lives, the bottom line is that unfairness still feels . . . wrong. As a society, we are conditioned to believe that unfairness should be met with some sort of retribution in order to balance the scales. In the workforce, this “reckoning” often comes about in the form of lawsuits against the employer. In other words, a worker who believes they have been wronged is much more likely to file a labor claim in response.

The problem, of course, is that we all know the workplace is not inherently fair - nor is it required to be. Businesses are not required to exercise fairness; they simply have to treat similarly-situated people (or protected groups) similarly. Just because you may run a business a certain way does not necessarily mean that doing so will always be in your best interests. In reality, treating your employees as fairly as possible can go a long way toward reducing future labor disputes.

What does “fairness” in the workplace look like, from a practical perspective? It means, for example, that any employee who is terminated for performance issues should know about those issues prior to termination. It means that you should not terminate or otherwise discipline one worker for doing something that others have repeatedly done without punishment. It means (whenever possible) not terminating someone for something that was completely outside of their control. By simply approaching the hiring, retention, and discipline of your employees with an eye toward fairness, you can reduce the feeling of being “wronged,” and reduce complaints and lawsuits as a result. After all, if an employee feels as if he was treated unfairly, he may later express his displeasure with the help of an attorney. When your workers feel that they are being treated fairly, it makes for a happier work environment and benefits your Practice’s long term sustainability by reducing legal claims.

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