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Protect your company from legal woes

Phyllis DavisBy Phyllis Davis
CIBM Contributor

Q] What do employers need to remember to do upon an employee's termination?

A] Employers or your human resource departments need to prepare accordingly for the exit interview as is stated in the labor laws and your workplace policies.

The employer should identify what factors were involved in the termination and whether the employer or employee chose to terminate the employment.

If particular policies or contracts are in place, this will determine what benefits the employee is eligible for upon termination.

For example, with Illinois being an "employment at will state," if there are certain policies in place pertaining to how much notice is to be given, and if the employee chose to terminate his own employment without proper notice, the employee could deprive himself of termination benefits such as accrued vacation and more.

If no contracts have been signed to waive or enforce your policies, then "employment at will" doctrine is typically enforced, barring any wrongful termination.

Many variables will determine what you need to provide the employee at the exit interview.

See the following Web sites for further information:

bullet State of Illinois Business Portal at: business.illinois.gov

bullet Illinois Small Business Advisor at: www.ilsmallbizadvisor.biz/ilsttemp/default.htm

bullet The University of Illinois College of Education Web site at www.ed.uiuc.edu/hre/resosurces/professionalresources.html includes links to human resource journals and includes other information.

I suggest joining a professional support group called Central Illinois Human Resources Group, an organization for human resource professionals in our area. It provides a wealth of training and development resources including a library of materials for members. The organization's Web site is www.cihrg.org.

Q] Why do employers pay independent third-party firms to administer their 401(k) plan?

A] There are several reasons why an employer would select a third-party firm to administer their 401 (K) plan. A third party firm may be less expensive and time consuming due to complex rules that govern the retirement plans. Add to the mix the maintaining of the plan with regularity testing for compliance, while assuring non-discrimination.

A firm would have more freedom in choosing investments and disseminating the information to employees with an unbiased interest. Equally important, the employer will have protection from possible damages, as well as being in the employees' best interests. Depending on the size of your business, seek a third-party firm that specialize in retirement plans and knowledge of the laws that affect you. In a recent U.S. District Court case in San Francisco, the Department of Labor stated that it vigorously enforces "the Employment Retirement Security Act (ERISA), which requires that employee contributions be forwarded to 401(k) plans in a timely manner. As the laws are tested in the District Courts, the rulings are important to you as a business owner. Stay alert and informed.

For more information, go to www.dol.gov/ebsa.

Q] What are some ways employers can help keep employees healthy?

A] Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing a safe and healthful workplace for their employees. OSHA's role is to assure the safety and health of America's working men and women by setting and enforcing standards; providing training, outreach and education; establishing partnerships; and encouraging continual process improvement in workplace safety and health. For more information, go to www.osha.gov.

It is important to note that workplace safety and health guidance may evolve and change over time as new information becomes available. For instance, the characteristics of the specific strain of influenza virus ultimately responsible for the pandemic may affect the way in which the disease is spread, and therefore, employers could give additional guidance tailored to that information. Up-to-date information is available to employers, employees and the public through www.pandemicflu.gov.

Workplaces are investing in the employees in other ways such as paying for their flu shots each year, providing memberships in health clubs, sponsoring their employees in marathons and planning events like family day out in the park. Employers who supply positive work environments are rewarded with less absences, more creativity/ productivity and higher profit margins.

- Phyllis Davis is a Career Development Specialist based in Champaign for the Illinois Employment Training Center. Reach her at 217-278-5700, ext. 237, or
padavis_2001@yahoo.com.

Special thanks to Angela Harris-Parks for collaboration on this article.

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