“The issues haven’t really changed,” said attorney Melissa Muro LaMere of Maslon, who represents clients in employment disputes and in business-to-business disputes.
The most common problem she encounters is an absence of documentation of performance issues necessary to show a reason for an adverse employment action.
Muro LaMere said she helps her clients avoid an “us versus them” approach in favor of maintaining positive relationships, protecting the talent and making the company grow.
Good policies and good training go hand in hand: Managers need to know what the policies are and how to use them.
Sometimes Muro LaMere conducts that training herself, depending on the size of the organization. “I have clients who run the gamut from manufacturers to salons to medical device industries.”
One common question among clients is what to do about offensive or hurtful “triggering” language and how to resolve the consequences of it. “Where do you draw the line?” she said. It can be difficult to facilitate healthy communications, especially in the social media age. It happens that an employee will take offense at something another employee has posted on Facebook and that dispute gets dragged into the workplace, she said. This kind of thing has tended to increase during the pandemic but is not limited to it, she said.
Absolutely, bullying happens, says Muro LaMere. The problem is determining what bullying is. “It’s all different shades of gray. The question is resolving the dispute.
Additionally, there are general concerns about productivity and morale. Many companies find that maintaining their workplace culture depends on keeping their employees, and some businesses have to work harder to retain employees, Muro LaMere said.
At the same time, employees are finding they can work from anywhere. “There will be a lot of employers who find the value of flexibility makes it worthwhile to change their workplace model,” she said. “There are a lot of arrangements to reduce overhead and retain employees.”
Another COVID-era development that may result in future problems is provisions of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, which requires some employers to provide employees with paid sick leave and expanded family and medical leave. (The leave requirements now are set to expire at the end of September.) The law requires employees to disclose certain health information. Complications are likely if those employees are laid off or terminated and either party relies upon that medical information, said Muro LaMere.
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