Human Resources Audit Toolkit

Resources to assist an employer in conducting an audit of an employer's human resources practices.

Practical Law Labor & Employment

As counselors and advisors, labor and employment lawyers are often called on to assess the human resources practices of their clients. Part of the challenge of that task is determining which areas of compliance must be explored and what risks to monitor. Human resources audits should include an assessment of these issues:

  • Creating and maintaining handbooks and workplace policies. Employee handbooks help to create organizational structure and clarify employer expectations. They also promote legal compliance and communicate legal principles in straightforward language. Handbooks ease some of the pressure on human resources departments by answering common questions as well. However, if drafted improperly, or not consistently enforced, handbooks can create litigation risks by espousing policies and practices inconsistent with the law.

  • Ensuring lawful hiring practices. Because applicants can make claims for discrimination and other employment law abuses, employers must ensure that hiring practices are stripped of practices that increase the risk of lawsuits, such as asking interview questions that delve into areas of protected class ( www.practicallaw.com/5-501-5857) status and bear no relationship to the job at hand. Human resources departments play a key role in hiring and can influence or curb bad behaviors in the interview process.

  • Promoting I-9 and immigration practices. For employers that do not adhere to Form I-9 ( www.practicallaw.com/6-502-1061) employment verification and immigration rules, heavy fines and penalties may be levied. Human resources departments are regularly tasked with this compliance issue and mistakes are easy to make.

  • Ensuring wage and hour compliance. Properly classifying employees in compliance with Fair Labor Standards Act ( www.practicallaw.com/5-501-9884) (FLSA) exemptions or exceptions is a vital job, which is often reserved to the human resources department. Employers can face legal challenges for misclassifications of independent contractors ( www.practicallaw.com/6-502-8864) , interns, white collar exemptions, and other areas if these practices are not properly vetted.

  • Eliminating discrimination and harassment. Legal claims rooted in discrimination or harassment ( www.practicallaw.com/2-508-3174) based on protected class status, along with related retaliation ( www.practicallaw.com/6-503-9612) claims, are the most common claims employers face. Human resources departments play an important role in preventing these kinds of unlawful behaviors by using appropriate policies, training, and internal investigations.

  • Accommodating disability and religious needs appropriately. The Americans with Disabilities Act ( www.practicallaw.com/7-501-9331) (ADA) and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ( www.practicallaw.com/0-501-7062) (Title VII) require reasonable accommodation of disability ( www.practicallaw.com/5-501-9332) and religion, respectively. Human resources departments that lack a firm grasp of the circumstances requiring accommodation and the definition of "reasonable" regarding each protected class have little chance of promoting workplace compliance.

  • Offering appropriate leave. Illness, pregnancy, and military service are only some of the lawfully protected reasons for employee leave. Human resources departments bear responsibility for overseeing employee leave and must determine:

    • what is required;

    • what should be allowed; and

    • when the employer has a right to require a return to work.

    Mismanagement of employee leave is a common cause of legal challenges that can be avoided by implementing proper policies and practices.

  • Ensuring lawful use of social media. With little legal guidance from statutes or the courts and much employer-adverse guidance from the National Labor Relations Board ( www.practicallaw.com/3-501-8649) (NLRB), it is challenging for employers to understand how they can harness the opportunities social media provides while minimizing associated risks. Human resources departments without a plan of action for social media are far more likely to lead the employer into dangerous legal territory.

  • Promoting employee health and safety. From Occupational Safety and Health Administration ( www.practicallaw.com/1-501-7797) (OSHA) inspections to workplace violence prevention, human resources departments face many challenges in the area of health and safety. Failure to engage in best practices can result in injuries, low morale, and legal complications.

  • Protecting trade secrets and confidential information and mitigating against unfair competition. The modern workplace sees more employee turnover, which poses a potential threat to an employer's ability to protect confidential information or trade secrets ( www.practicallaw.com/0-502-0451) as well as their competitive advantage. Appropriate policies and practices originating from the human resources department can help mitigate those risks and give employers leverage if those issues give rise to litigation.

  • Engaging in lawful employee discipline, internal investigations, and employment terminations. Human resources departments are regularly involved with employee discipline and internal investigations. Sometimes employee misconduct or other business necessities lead to an employment termination, layoff, or plant closing. There are many ways these practices can expose employers to legal problems. For example, a botched internal investigation may suggest that the employer failed to take internal allegations of discrimination seriously or eliminate the employer's best opportunity to show that it acted legally.

The Human Resources Audit Toolkit provides many resources designed to assist an employer in appropriate human resource department oversight.

 

Employee Handbooks and General Guidance

Practice Notes

Standard Documents

Checklists

 

Hiring and Onboarding

Practice Notes

Standard Documents

Checklists

State Q&A Tools

 

Immigration

Practice Notes

Standard Documents

Checklists

 

Wage and Hour

Practice Notes

Standard Documents

Checklists

State Q&A Tools

 

Discrimination and Accommodation

Practice Notes

Standard Documents

Checklists

State Q&A Tools

 

Employee Leave

Practice Notes

Standard Documents

Checklists

State Q&A Tools

 

Social Media and Employee Privacy

Practice Notes

Standard Documents

Checklists

State Q&A Tools

 

Health and Safety

Practice Notes

Standard Documents

Checklists

 

Restrictive Covenants

Practice Notes

Standard Documents

Checklists

State Q&A Tools

 

Employee Discipline, Investigation, and Termination

Practice Notes

Standard Documents

Checklists

State Q&A Tools

 

Other State Content

 
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