By The Book

Liability Insurance Article in PAIN Magazine

Everyone needs rules. Moses had the Ten Commandments. The forefathers of our country had the Constitution. As a business owner it’s in your best interest to give your employees guidance and direction. There’s no need for stone tablets. A well-written employee handbook provides your staff with concrete policies and procedures to follow. Whether they’re written down or not, most businesses already have a list of do's and don'ts. Creating a handbook is just a way of formalizing them to help your employees know that everyone is working from the same set of criteria. “An employee handbook makes it easier for the non-professional manager to spell out the terms of how employees are expected to do their job and the results that may come about should they not reach those expectations,” says Rick Thorpe, a certified business advisor with the Small Business Development Center. A company handbook can motivate employees and allow them to grow by being comfortable making some decisions on their own. Written rules also help you avoid legal problems. With regulations becoming more stringent, you can’t afford to run a business in which you’re hiring, firing and managing employees without a written explanation of how your company deals with human resource issues. Most importantly, have employees sign each page stating that they have read and understand the information - that waythere is no confusion. An employee handbook is almost like a first verbal warning. But be extremely careful how you word things. Include a prominent disclaimer that conveys that the employee handbook does not form a contract or alter the “at-will” terms and conditions of the employment relationship. At-will employment means that either an employer or an employee may end the employment at any time for almost any reason. In other words, no good cause is required to terminate the association with an at-will employee. “If they’re considered a permanent employee, it’s almost impossible to get r id of them because you've given them a contract of permanency,” Thorpe says. “They must have committed a flagrant offense that results in damage to the business itself to get fired.” One important issue to note, especially for tattoo and piercing businesses, is that “employees” are subject to the conditions set forth in the employee handbook; “independent contractors” are not. It’s possible that your artists work as independent contracts, while your counter person may be a regular employee. About the only way you can tell an independent contractor what to do and how to act is to hire them as an official member of your staff. Everyone at your shop may be best buds right now, but what happens when a problem comes up? Somebody says something rude and crude to another employee and you've got sparks. That's where employment practices liability insurance come in – it provides protection for an employer against claims made by employees, former employees, or potential employees. It covers discrimination (age, sex, race, disability, etc.), wrongful termination of employment, sexual harassment, and other employment-related allegations. Most companies that offer employment practices insurance require their policy holder to have an employee handbook to set the ground rules. “If an employee is fired for violating a policy, they can still bring a lawsuit against you for wrongful termination, ” says Jennifer Schoenthal, senior underwriter with Professional Program Insurance Brokerage (PPIB), a specialty insurance provider for professionals in the body art industry. “If your handbooks says that an employee must conduct themselves in a certain manner and they breach that contract, it’s going to give you a pretty good defense should the case end up in court.”

Name: by Darin Burt - Jennifer Schoenthal Quoted Date: August 1, 2011 More Information: Pain Magazine August 2011 Issue

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