Human resources often is overlooked in situations that could lead to a lawsuit, says Roger Hillman, JD, an attorney with the Paramount Law Group in Seattle.
Risk managers should notify human resources of an employee’s involvement in potential litigation, Hillman says. He has encountered cases in which he was hired to defend a company and needed to interview an employee who had witnessed the incident in question or otherwise was involved, only to find that the employee was no longer with the company.
The employee may have left voluntarily or might have been terminated, which would be more troublesome, he says. But it should not be a surprise to counsel, and ideally that person should not be terminated until the matter is resolved.
“Just as you send out a litigation hold memo to tell everyone not to destroy anything, it would be a good practice to send a notice to human resources identifying the employees who are either potential parties suing us in this action or witnesses to the event,” he says. “Ask human resources, before taking any action on these employees, to please notify risk management, who will, in turn, notify defense counsel.”
If the employee leaves voluntarily, human resources should try to obtain contact information.
“If they need to be let go for good cause, you don’t have to hang on to them,” Hillman says. “But human resources can let risk management know so the risk manager can do any damage control and at a minimum be aware of the termination and the justification for it.”
• Roger Hillman, JD, Paramount Law Group, Seattle. Phone: (206) 940-9662. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.