Page 26 - Network Magazine Winter 2019
P. 26

      An Ounce of Prevention:
A Plaintiff Employment Lawyer’s
Sincere Advice to HR
GEORGE S. KOUNOUPIS, ESQ., HAHALIS & KOUNOUPIS P.C.
For over 25 years Attorney Kounoupis has represented employees and sued most of the Fortune 500 corpora- tions, insurance companies, as well as federal, state and county governments. If your top managers and executives have not yet secretly consulted with him, they probably will in the future.
Human resources issues are highly prevalent in the busi- ness environment, and thus there is a steady barrage of HR seminars and conferences. Knowledge of the laws and regulations is easier than ever with such consul- tants and online resources. However longer, wisdom
in the area of HR is harder to acquire.
In this vein, therefore, allow me some general observations gained from a valuable perspec- tive: that of a 30-year plaintiff employment lawyer-for practical purposes the “adver- sary” (although we should all be inter- ested solely in obtaining fairness and
justice in the workplace).
We can begin with the question of who comes to see me? Employ- ees, of all ranks, come to see me, “chiefs, cooks, and bottle
washers"
and in all protected categories: age, gender, race, ethnic- ity, religion, disability, sexual preference, whistleblowers, etc.... As varied as they may be, they all mainly have one unifying characteristic: They feel disrespected. You can spot the employee who will cause “a problem” by seeing who feels profoundly disrespected.
When do employees come to see me? It is useful to note that they often come when they are threatened, disciplined, fearful, angry- long before they are fired. Ac- cordingly, in such cases, HR managers should be mindful that there is a high chance of a retaliation or hostile work environment case being filed since behind the employee’s interactions there is the watchful eye of counsel and counsel’s guidance.
The best advice in my experience is holistic. It comes from understanding that for most employees a job is not just a paycheck but also a source of dignity and self-esteem. They must be able to go home and look their family in the eye. Most long-time, employees feel they have pro- vided loyalty and claim a deep sense of betrayal when disrespected, treated unfairly or bullied. (“I missed my kids’ birthdays for this!"). In my view, the best and most effective HR manager does not focus only on what is
legal but humanizes the workplace. This type of HR professional is very valuable and a formidable opponent to the Plaintiffs lawyer in litigation and in front of the jury. Such an HR professional has avoided the pitfalls of threats, bullying, and abuse of power and has acted with sensitivity and respect for the human element. Rather than using organizational power to beat down and intimidate employees, there is a
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