Are you making these workplace compliance mistakes?

John Sherman

Ignorance to the law does not grant you immunity! Sounds dramatic, doesn’t it?

Well, when it comes to workplace compliance this is absolutely true. “Harmless mistakes” and a lax attitude towards federal and state mandates can quickly result in fines and lawsuits that can bring your business to a grinding halt.


If you want to keep things above board and avoid legal problems, then make sure you aren’t making these common compliance mistakes:

Missing job-application forms.

Everyone who is a potential employee at your organization must fill out an application form that’s compliant with your state and federal regulations. Different states require different information and it’s critical to be up-to-date about what to include on these forms. These mistakes are easy to make. Some employers, for example, provide the right forms and then they get lost or end up in the trash by accident. Don’t make this mistake!

Failure to provide harassment prevention trainingharassment prevention training.

Harassment is a serious issue that can have equally serious consequences for your business. That’s why many states have laws in place that require employers to provide harassment prevention training. Without this training, your employees may be violating the law without being aware of it. Even if your state does not require you to provide workplace harassment prevention training, it’s a smart thing to provide in order to avoid compliance issues in the future.

Failure to provide up-to-date W-4 forms.

Every employee is required to complete a W-4 tax form after they have been formally hired at your organization. Most companies don’t miss this part, but it’s quite common that these forms become outdated after someone has been at an organization over time. The best policy is to require your employees to fill out a new W-4 every year to make sure everything is compliant.

Failure to provide anti-discrimination traininganti-discrimination training.

Like harassment, discrimination is another serious problem that can have costly consequences for your organization. While your state might not require formal anti-discrimination training, it’s a good idea to implement it to make sure employees don’t commit an offense due to ignorance of the law. Your employees could be having lunch, for example, and a line of questioning could end up crossing over into the discrimination territory. Many people are aware that it’s against federal law to discriminate against age, sex, and nationality but there are other groups that are protected against discrimination as well—including smokers.

Sharing an employee’s medical status or condition with others.

Sometimes employees need special accommodations due to medical situations that arise. While a manager or superior may be given access to the nature of the medical condition, sharing that information with others can be a serious privacy (and obviously compliance) violation.

Making same-sex marriage discrimination mistakes.

Same-sex marriage was made lawful after the Supreme Court ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges. This means that employers are committing federal violations if they do not update their policies regarding benefits, family, and medical leave, and so on. Since this was a relatively recent change, many organizations might need to revisit their documentation to ensure that they are in compliance.

Allowing telecommuting employees to commit unauthorized overtime.

The number of workers who have “gone remote” over the past few years has skyrocketed. In fact, it’s been estimated that 45 percent of the entire U.S. workforce telecommutes on some basis now. While this is having a surprisingly positive effect on productivity for many organizations, it’s can also lead to employees working too many unauthorized hours from home. To avoid making this costly compliance mistake, it’s absolutely critical to monitor the hours worked and make sure supervisors and employees are on the same page regarding hours.

Video surveillance in unauthorized areas.

While some employers have a real need to videotape and monitor employees, it’s important that privacy violations don’t occur. In most cases, employers only have the legal right to videotape common or public areas where there is no expectation of privacy. Further, employees should always be aware that they are or could potentially be recorded.

Intruding on someone’s privacy due to unreasonable search.

Your employees have a legal right to privacy and this includes protection against unreasonable searches. Lockers, desks and employee changing rooms may all be considered areas that are off limits to unreasonable searches.

LGBT discrimination violations

The lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered communities are protected against harassment, privacy invasion, and discrimination. Over the past few years there have been a number of news stories that have brought these communities into the forefront of the national spotlight. Comments and questions may be made in the workplace that violate the legal mandates that protect these individuals. To prevent this, it’s important to provide training that outlines the your policy regarding LGBT discrimination and the consequences of violating it.

Workplace compliance fines and lawsuits cost American companies billions of dollars every year. Some mistakes may be due to simple documentation errors, while others may come about due to employee ignorance to the law. Either way, compliance mistakes could end up costing your organization dearly. The best way to prevent these violations is to stay informed and provide continuous training for management and employees.


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