September 2000


By Philip Zimmerman, CPA

Most CPAs can assist their clients and firms in reducing the rapidly growing risk from employment disputes. In June, a U.S. Supreme Court decision in an employment discrimination case, Reeves v. Sanderson Plumbing Products, lowered the bar for workplace complainants.

The CPA can assess a clientís risk by asking the following questions:

  • Does the company have an internal or external employment dispute system? Obtaining consent for employee participation in such systems is more difficult to secure once a dispute has arisen.
  • Does the company ask employees to agree to participate in the system as a condition prior to employment? Later agreement, especially without consideration, may be challenged.
  • Does the company have an equal employment opportunity policy? Is the policy appropriately communicated? Are employees and supervisors trained in understanding and enforcing the policy?
  • Does the company make a nonthreatening and neutral reporting mechanism available to employees that perceive a violation of their equal employment opportunities or some type of harassment? Can employees address their complaint to someone who is not their supervisor or the perpetrator of the alleged act?

    Using this type of employment survey should help reduce challenges to employment practices and save the client from the potentially large costs involved in resolving employment disputes and avoiding the unfavorable publicity arising from erroneous claims.

    Editorís Note: The December 2000 CPA in Mediation and Arbitration department will outline an in-house employment dispute resolution system. In March 2001, there will be a review of the equal employment laws enforced by the U.S. EEOC.

    Philip Zimmerman, CPA

    Mediator and Arbitrator

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