While resolutions to swear off sugar or thrust yourself into a new exercise regimen may have fallen by the wayside by now, there is still time to reduce risk in 2015 by putting the following ten items on the top of your resolution list.

  1. Review your pre-hire forms and processes. Don’t rely on the same on-boarding forms and processes that you always have; laws and jurisprudence concerning background checks and confidentiality are continually changing. Review these forms and processes and ensure that they comply with local and federal law.
  2. Revise your policies and ensure compliance with new and changing laws. Don’t assume you know what is in your handbook. Frequently, when employers review their policies, they find that they are not accurate reflections of their practices. A reliable handbook is important because employees consult the handbook, and in litigation it is assumed that the policies are correct reflections of an employer’s practices. When conducting a review, consider whether certain employment disputes that have arisen in recent years could have been avoided with more robust policies. Additionally, now that local laws such as the New York City Earned Sick Time Act and the New York City Pregnant Workers Fairness Act are in effect, employers need to update their relevant policies. If you have not updated your handbook in the past two years, it is out of date.
  3. Determine whether a social media policy is right for you. Social media policies are all the rage among employers that seek to prevent leaks of confidential information and reputational damage, but these policies need to be carefully crafted. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the National Labor Relations Board are scrutinizing such policies and employment actions taken under such policies.
  4. Draft or revise job descriptions. Accurate and detailed job descriptions put employees and managers on notice of expectations and are critical to the defense of disability claims or requests for accommodation.
  5. Audit exempt employee classifications. While an employer may have intended that a role be exempt, in practice the role may lack the characteristics that confer  exempt  status.  Conducting  such  an  audit can be a time-consuming process, but is worth the investment to avoid the significant expense associated with misclassification, particularly given the six-year statute of limitations in New York and the availability of double damages.
  6. Assess your performance assessments. Most employers have a performance appraisal process, but the process is only as good as the feedback provided. Train your managers to write constructive and honest reviews of employees, which helps ensure employees receive feedback and poor performance is documented in the event that disciplinary action needs to be taken. Assessment forms that contain too many questions can be as useless as forms that contain too few.
  7. Train your managers regarding human resource policies and issues. Poor manager awareness and training causes or fails to prevent the majority of employment-related litigations. Managers should be trained and receive refresher trainings on all aspects of an employer’s policies and the law, including respect in the workplace, use of the human resources function, effective management strategies, and performance appraisals. (See No. 6).
  8. Train employees who interview candidates.Meaningful training for interviewers not only improves your recruitment process, but prevents pitfalls. Interviewers should be trained regarding discussion topics and questions that are inappropriate and how to recognize and avoid personal biases in their evaluation of candidates.
  9. Analyze whether restrictive covenants are right for you. Many employers have never considered requiring employees to sign restrictive covenants, while others have never considered going without. We recommend assessing (a) whether you should have a restrictive covenant agreement, (b) whether your current restrictive covenant agreement is enforceable, (c) whether your practices are within industry norms, and (d) which employees should be bound by a restrictive covenant. All employers should have provisions requiring employees to maintain the confidentiality of proprietary information.
  10. Determine the advisability of compelling arbitration of employment matters and review your standard arbitration provision. While arbitration is often a faster and less expensive method for litigating an employment claim, it may not be appropriate for your industry and/or employees. Furthermore, the forum you select for arbitration is important in determining the expense and speed with which a matter will be arbitrated. If an employer has an existing arbitration provision, it should be reviewed to ensure the inclusion of statutory claims