Workers Comp Attorney

The Role of Workers Comp Attorneys in HR Crisis Management

Employers and their HR teams need to prepare for any eventuality. If a crisis arises, human resource issues must be handled quickly. Employees need to be a part of recovery planning, as it is their needs that must be met. If these needs aren’t met, problems could arise. The entire recovery process may fail. 

At times, the business cannot reopen following a crisis. Employees cannot be neglected in situations such as these. If they are, the company could be facing legal problems. For this reason, every business owner should consult with a workers comp attorney when creating a recovery plan. 

The Goal of the Recover Plan

When creating this recovery plan, the organization must comply with all laws and regulations, not only at the local level but also at the state and federal levels. While doing so, the company must meet the needs of its employees. If it doesn’t, the human capital may not be there when the time comes to resume normal operations. This plan should outline preventative steps to ensure all needs are met while complying. 

Business Interruptions

Casualty events disrupt normal operations. The building might suffer severe damage, making it unusable for an extended period, or cease to exist. The first step is to alert employees to the change in operations. Doing so could take significant time and effort. Furthermore, authorities may step in and make the process more difficult. An attorney can help navigate the legal challenges associated with this disruption. 

When a business must close down, it has to give covered employees 60 days advance notice. According to the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act (WARN), this notice must be given before a mass layoff or plant closing. Even when the shutdown is temporary, workers may need to be notified. The legislation states temporary shutdowns that affect 50 or more workers in any 30 days require advance notice.

The plant owner must also contact state and local officials and share news of this shutdown. If a company fails to do so,  it could result in a fine and the company being forced to continue compensating workers for their pay and benefits. Ultimately, the company might find it cannot reopen. An attorney can help business owners determine when this notice is needed and how to inform workers of the impending shutdown. 

Exceptions to the Notification Rule

There are exceptions to the 60-day rule, but a business must be careful, as these exceptions are very narrow. A business cannot predict an earthquake, for example, so no notice must be given. However, the business must give as much notice as possible and explain why the 60-day rule wasn’t followed. If the business fails to do so, it must pay employees for the full 60 days. Work with an attorney to ensure the notice is handled properly regardless of when it must be provided. 

Furthermore, the business must meet any state and location obligations when it comes to providing notice. The same holds for collective bargaining agreements. An attorney can help the business owner navigate these dangerous waters. 

Caring for Employees

Employees often need their pay desperately following a shutdown. The employer must find a way to pay accrued wages if the business cannot continue operations. Some states have made it a criminal offense for an employer to miss a scheduled pay date. The employee might also be able to get liquidated damages, statutory penalties, and more if they have to pursue legal action to receive the pay. Corporate officers with the authority to sign paychecks may be held accountable if these wages aren’t paid and could face criminal charges if they fail to do so. 

The company must also maintain benefit plan administration while processing and resolving life insurance, health, and disability claims. Counseling services must be offered following a particularly traumatic event, especially one that occurred in the workplace. Personal protective measures may be needed for the workplace to be safe for humans. An attorney can help the business owner determine what actions are required and when. 

Government Investigations

When a workplace death occurs, the business owner must notify the Occupational Safety and Health Administration within eight hours. The agency then launches an investigation into this workplace fatality. Local law enforcement officials might start their own investigation along with many other agencies. The business owner should have a team prepared to meet with authorities, assist with the inspection process, and respond to government requests regarding facility inspections and employee interviews. If the business does not comply, it may be hit with an enormous fine or criminal charges.

Employee Asset Protection

When a facility must shut down, the company needs to know where its intangible property is. Often, this property goes home with employees, so companies must prepare to safeguard it. Trade secrets serve as a good example of property the company must protect. Measures need to be in place to prevent employees from using the material in an unauthorized manner, such as to benefit themselves or help the competition.

Employees are most vulnerable when they have job security concerns, and competitors recognize this. They may try to take advantage of the shutdown. Having binding agreements in place to prevent this is essential. The company should also have employees sign no-solicitation and confidentiality agreements to protect assets that an insurance policy cannot cover. 

Planning is necessary to recover quickly following a disaster. When all employees within a company know what to expect following the crisis, they can focus on other issues. Employees will know they are protected, and executives can work on implementing all parts of the plan. This plan should include a way to alert employees to a shutdown when normal communication channels or records aren’t accessible. Have a contingency plan to fulfill payroll obligations and handle benefit plan claims. Ensure crisis counseling services are readily available if needed and create a plan for any reasonably anticipated event. All parties named in the plan will then know what is required of them. Don’t hesitate to contact an attorney for help in creating and implementing the plan. They can help ensure you don’t overlook anything and unintentionally hurt the company. 

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