Much of a small business owner's time is spent managing employees, which requires a basic understanding of employment law and the ability to maintain a harmonious workplace. In FindLaw's section on Managing Employees you can find information on a wide variety of management issues, including articles about creating discipline policies, how to create an effective and enforceable employee handbook, and implementing an effective telecommuting policy. In this section, you can also find articles on the basics of employee unions and how they interact with management.
Employees and the Internet
The Internet and email have provided easier communication with customers, vendors, and employees. Although the Internet is an asset to most, if not all, businesses, it's also important to have Internet and email policies in place to make sure that your business won't get into to trouble, keep your business secure, and to promote your employees' productivity. First, it's important to have a clear and easy to understand employee Internet and email usage policy in place. This policy should explicitly outline which websites are appropriate and which are not for employees to visit while they are working.
You should also put your employees on notice if you plan to monitor their Internet usage. Monitoring employees' Internet use is common practice among businesses these days, and most employees have a lower expectation of privacy when they use the Internet on their work computer. It's also common for businesses to install software that limits access to certain websites, which can keep the company computer and information secure and lower the time an employee wastes while he or she should be working.
Employee Personnel Files
It's probably a good idea to keep a personnel file for each of your employees. These files are meant to contain job-related documents, such as offer letters, job applications, employment contracts, and information relating to the employee's salary and benefits. You can also keep any documents relating to employee discipline and performance evaluations in an employee's personnel file. Items that should not be kept in an employee's file are I-9 forms and medical records. Employees' completed I-9 forms should be kept in a separate folder, while any medical records should be kept in compliance with the rules outlined in the Americans with Disabilities Act.
As for who can access employee personnel files, it's a good idea to keep them in a locked file cabinet and limit who can access the files. Most states allow employees to see some of the contents of their own files. Generally, employers are allowed to be present while the employee reviews his or her file so that you can ensure that the contents of the file are not altered by the employee.
Hiring an Employment Law Attorney
Managing employees effectively can be a difficult task. There are various laws that come into play - including laws intended to provide privacy to employees. If you would like help creating and implementing policies intended to effectively manage your employees, you may want to meet with an employment law attorney near you.