Subscribe to Feed (Atom)
Bookmark and Share

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Don't try this at the office.

As the office administrator of our firm, I’m in the process of creating an employee handbook. One very useful source of advice on everything pertaining to managing a law firm is the Association of Legal Administrators, of which I am a proud member. An article in the current issue of the association’s journal titled “Rules of the Road: Establishing Law Firm Policies and Procedures,” advises that you avoid “binding obligations in the form of well-intentioned statements that . . . can spark lawsuits when poor performers are terminated,” and instead “address areas that reflect the culture and policies of the workplace.”

One example of what can go wrong when an employee handbook does not reflect a firm’s culture is a recent lawsuit filed against a Utah-based motivational coaching firm that is accused of using waterboarding as a “motivational exercise.” The plaintiff claims that co-workers held him down as a manager slowly poured a gallon of water over his mouth and nose, telling workers that he wanted them to work as hard at selling as the waterboarded employee had worked at breathing.

You may want to avoid waterboarding as a technique for employee motivation. However, during his Senate confirmation hearing, even Attorney General Michael Mukasey was less than clear about whether the practice was torture. “If it amounts to torture, then it is not constitutional,” he testified.

Hopefully, your firm culture does not include torture, or even humiliation (the motivational coaching firm manager was also accused of punishing employees by drawing mustaches on them with permanent marker). But taking the time to spell out specifics regarding what is expected of employees should help to avoid pesky lawsuits. KM

No comments: