Craig Deimler, owner of Deimler & Sons Construction, in Harrisburg, Pa., is being sued by a former employee who was injured in 2003, laid off, rehired in 2004, and eventually fired after Deimler found that the employee was chronically late, ignoring safety rules, and falsifying time sheets. The employee claims that he was wrongfully fired for being disabled.
Deimler and his attorney filed all the necessary paperwork and thought that the case was closed. But, now on its third case worker, the suit is “once again rearing its ugly head,” Deimler says.
- Keep records. Write down and date everything that happens in reviews and other one-on-one meetings with an employee. Ask the employee to sign paperwork, signaling agreement.
- Make sure the case is actually closed. Push your attorney to get paperwork saying that a case is closed, within a decent amount of time. It’s all right to wait a few weeks as things are processed, but set a reminder to close out the case.
- Do drug tests. As it turns out, Deimler’s employee was misusing OxyContin, which may have affected his behavior. A drug test would have shown this narcotic in his system.
- Think hard before rehiring. “Make sure there is a very good reason to bring someone back,” Deimler says. “Don’t allow yourself to get distracted thinking that this is an easier plan than hiring someone new — even if the old employee doesn’t meet your standards.”
- Put aside money for legal issues. “You never know what could happen,” Deimler says. He now adds 0.25% to every project. The money is earmarked for legal issues. “Having this fund in place will help us bring in the support we need if it ever happens again,” he says.
—Victoria Downing is president of Remodelers Advantage. 301.490.5620; remodelersadvantage.com.