Legal trappings abound within the confines of the workplace. There is literally no room for error in your dealings with others, which at times can have serious and lasting legal repercussions. Regardless if you subscribe to the belief that we live in a litigious society, the fact remains we must all support “due process” if our justice system is to work effectively. Co-working and sharing office space should not require you to walk on eggshells or stifle your personality, we are not robots. Common faux pas in today’s workplace have evolved as with our society and the changing structure of the workday. Being educated, using common sense and traditional manners (which your mother should have taught you) should keep you out of the court room. If you have not taken time to analyze the most common lawsuits stemming from the workplace, now is the time to start.
Sexual Harassment is still prevalent in case filings against employers, while %44 over the last ten years were thrown out for lacking merit, lawsuits filed by men in 2012 was the highest ever, rising %3 overall. Real or imagined anyone is susceptible to getting slapped with a sexual harassment lawsuit, a simple miscommunication or slip of appropriate behavior is an expensive lesson.
Balancing the relationship of co-workers versus friends is always a delicate matter, especially when we spend so much time with the people we work with. It is important to set boundaries, not just to establish a hierarchy of professional conduct, but to keep a safe distance from the intermingling of your personal lives. Countless times this relaxing of the boundary line leads to problems, control, sabotage, or temptation. Admiring your co-workers “big brains” is acceptable if done appropriately, professionally and platonically. Separating work from play when you love your job can be difficult, but once you’ve been burned you never play with fire again.
Hiring and Firing of employees is not easy for either side, from the decision making to executing, it’s all uncomfortable, but ultimately a necessary change in both cases. Communication is key in both scenarios; this includes documentation, clear policies, a clear chain of command, and action! Often there is a lack of all of those elements, which often ends up in disappointment or a disgruntled employee, both of which can be avoided.
The hot new legal action is attack via Social Media. Cases continue to rise in vast numbers which brings unprecedented issues to the table along with the typical slander, libel, invasion of privacy, identity theft and misrepresentation. The best advice in your business dealings with Social Media is to tread lightly, be aware that it is a global platform, there is no secrecy, and anything you do or say can be used against you in a court of law!
Keeping yourself educated by attending legal business seminars or conducting regular meetings to review policies and practices is a great way to avoid any of the nasty legal entanglements that could arise in the workplace. Unfortunately your mother was right, the best prevention is abstinence, and if you refrain most likely your assets will never be in jeopardy.