Startups in Colorado have a passion for maintaining a “non-corporate-y” environment, but a “relaxed, young, and fun place to work” can often run afoul of employment laws. Relaxed might mean that you are misclassifying employees as independent contractors, young might mean that you become a target for age discrimination suits, and fun might mean that you are too loose when it comes to unintentional but unlawful harassment. Startups need scaling strategies that manage the tension between compliance and culture.
The easiest way to assess legal obligations is by the number of employees the organization has. After you celebrate hiring Alesia, your 50th full-time employee, someone needs to put in place compliant processes now that you have to adhere to two of the more process and paperwork-laden federal laws: the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) and the Family Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”). High-growth startups that pass the 100 employee mark can’t lose sight of the requirement of EEO-1 form submission (which the EEOC is seeking to complicate further). Here is a good link to important basic concepts:
The dreaded handbook -- Do you need one? Maybe not, but you do need to comply with the notification requirements of many federal and state laws. If you don’t want to be policy-ridden, that’s fine, but policies such as zero tolerance for harassment of any kind can help maintain work place harmony before anyone has to invoke the law. How about a fun handbook that reflects your culture and mission? Check out some innovative handbook ideas here:
The good news is that maintaining compliance with employment laws can co-exist with maintaining a classic startup culture. More importantly, compliance will not impede successful growth – so call me to help you set your processes, and then go ahead and throw that party for Alesia.