Jan 11, 2017

Employment Attorneys Know The Good And Bad Places To Work

Employment Attorneys Know The Good And Bad Places To Work
By Beth Robinson

Little-known fact: the employment attorney at the firm with the most local clients will have a pretty good idea what places are good and bad to work for. Why?

Because I’m outside counsel, I see a lot of different ways to do things (or as my granny would say, a few of the thousand ways to skin a cat).

When I started my career, I had a client who I learned all about the administrative process with (and pretty much how claims worked for state and federal discrimination laws everywhere they were based). Let’s call them ACME. ACME called me at least once a week to tell me someone had done something wrong, and either needed to be fired immediately, or had been fired immediately and was now threatening to sue. I used to think: how can someone’s employees be this bad? And then, the near-constant stream of EEOC and local agency filings from ACME. I was on a first-name basis with not one, but two EEOC investigators, all thanks to ACME’s workforce. They were the client every defense employment attorney dreams of.

But I had another client, an even bigger employer, who had far fewer issues. I will call them Client Good Employees (“CGE”). CGE had about ten percent of the administrative filings of ACME. They had a similar mix of employees: about half were professionals with college degrees, and about half weren’t. CGE did have fewer female employees, and this actually meant more sexual harassment claims for CGE. But other than that, they were exemplary. I would highly recommend them as a place to work for friends (if you could find an opening!). And while I had two major cases for ACME that were fraught with ridiculous drama, plus a DOL investigation, I had nothing like that for CGE.

The biggest difference I could tell, as both companies had similar policies and processes that I had drafted and/or revised, was that ACME had two big issues: (1) lack of employee engagement leading to high turnover and poor accountability, and (2) unstable leadership. They had really high turnover, even among employees who were professionals and relatively hard to find. And no one ever seemed to be responsible for anything. Further, the story was out. I went to a dinner party once, and overheard someone talking loudly about how they would NEVER work for ACME. Being a bad employer gives you a bad reputation, and it impacted their pool of potential employees. And when it came to working with ACME as outside counsel, I constantly would learn that I had a new “contact” person, and often when I asked about the last one, no one knew what happened to him or her.

CGE was the opposite. Stable leadership, stable workforce. Employees took ownership of their work, and responsibility for the outcomes. People saw this company as a place to arrive at. People took jobs there, including in-house counsel, and never left. They had a small but incredibly stable group of people I would work closely with, and while they were demanding of their outside counsel, I found them to be a pleasure to work with. Almost all of the attorneys I worked with are still there.

I have never run a company, so I have no idea how hard it is to get from company CBE to CGE. Or even if you can. But I do know that it makes a huge difference for everyone who works there. I know from experience it isn’t whether or not you have a good harassment policy or follow the law as to vacation and sick days. It’s about employee investment in the process and ownership of the outcome, treating your employees fairly, and leadership that sees the value of their employees.

So what do you do? If you are just a worker bee, I recommend doing your research before you take that job offer, and if you find yourself at a company where you see constant turnover, or constant upheaval, unless you are there to fix it, see it as a place for a temporary stay. Some jobs are meant to be a lesson on where not to work. If you are an owner of a company or in the C-suite, you should think seriously about what your role is in the situation, and what concrete steps can be taken to get things on track.

But, if you happen to stumble upon (or purposefully set your sights on) a well-run organization, like my example “CGE,” with stability and opportunity, get in there and take ownership of your work, learn the ropes, connect with the right people. You have found a rare jewel. Hold on to it. And while it might not be your forever place, you will look back on it with fond memories. Be thankful for it. Unfortunately, there are lots of “ACMEs” out there.

Beth Robinson lives in Denver and is a business law attorney and employment law guru. She practices at Fortis Law Partners. You can reach her at employmentlawgurubr@gmail.com and follow her on Twitter at @HLSinDenver.

Original source:  Above the Law

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