One "too early" Monday morning, sitting at defense counsel's
table in a chilly courtroom, I watched the plaintiff's attorney, a
rather Icabod Crane-looking fellow, shuffle up to the podium,
holding a bound volume tightly to his chest.
The attorney's clutched volume caught my attention because I
couldn't remember the plaintiff producing anything like it to us
during discovery. As I grabbed for plaintiff's exhibit list to see
if the book was disclosed, I could feel my co-counsel's body tense,
readying to stand and object to whatever surprise opposing counsel
was planning to spring on us.
With bowed head, counsel quietly and formally placed the volume,
opened to a marked page, on the podium. He removed an antique watch
from his breast pocket, lifted the cover, and lay it next to the
book. He took some wire eye-glasses from another pocket, placed them
on the end of his nose, adjusted them around his ears, and proceeded
to speak, or rather, preach (and I swear this a true story): "In the
Before we could stand and object, the judge -- a former military
man who tolerates no nonsense in his courtroom -- was out of his
chair, black robes billowing around him, energetically waiving his
arms: "No, No, No, counsel, this is a discrimination case, not a
church service. We'll have none of that in this court."
I have to say that it was the oddest beginning to a trial I have
ever witnessed. I almost wish the judge would have let counsel
continue so that we could have seen where the "Genesis" opening was
Generally speaking, I am not inclined to include biblical
references in my work product (although several may be applicable to
certain situations), and it is not my intention to include godly
pronouncements in this column with any regularity. This said,
however, I do believe that an employer's adherence to 10 simple
rules can keep the employer out of a lot of trouble. For this
reason, I am beginning this series of columns with a structure
borrowed from Exodus.
Here, in my view, are the "10 Commandments" of human resource
I -- Hire Good People.
Good people come into your workplace and make it pleasant,
productive and profitable. Bad people do the opposite. Employers can
avoid hiring a bad person by carefully reading employment
applications for consistency of information; by checking personal
and work references; and by running (in a lawful manner) rudimentary
One story: after an incidence of workplace theft, an employer
went back and tried to verify the information on the suspected
culprit's employment application. The employer discovered that in
19__, the year that the employee said he was working for company
"A," the employee was really serving time in Prison "B." Enough
II -- Treat Your Good Employees as if You Want Them to Stay.
Employees stay employed with, and work well for (and do not sue)
employers to whom they are loyal. Loyalty in employees is built on a
foundation comprised of respect, a communicated growth or promotion
plan for the future, fair treatment, positive communication about
employee strengths and weaknesses, pay that is commensurate with the
work, and a pat on the back for a job well done.
Buying loyalty is expensive. The above items are all free.
III -- Communicate Your Expectations.
One employer with whom I worked was frustrated and angry because
her employee had responded in a negative and, arguably, unlawful
manner to a question posed over the telephone by a person asking
about a former employee. …