Here are some hot-button issues every HR team should be equipped to deal with:

DISABILITIES

If you have 15 or more employees, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) protects individuals from discrimination related to hiring, promotions, training, pay, and social activities based on disability.

Your staff needs adequate training to ensure that they are aware of the ADA and will avoid saying or doing things that could get them in trouble.

MEDICAL LEAVE

Under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), if you have 50 or more employees, your employees are granted up to 12 weeks of leave during any 12-month period for the birth of a child, care of an immediate family member, the employee’s own illness, or if an immediate family member is on active military duty. Non-compliance can result in civil actions by employees.

For instance, if someone’s having a baby, you have to make sure you’re initiating the correct paper work within the correct time frame, says Sandy Ball, Chief Human Resources Officer at Aspida.

If someone’s hospitalized, you have to tell them if they’re eligible for leave under FMLA, and so on.

SEXUAL HARASSMENT

Sexual harassment violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. Litigation against your company may result in lost wages, compensatory damages, and punitive damages.

It is important to create a professional workplace environment where all employees feel respected. This includes having policies in place to protect against harassment in the first place, and creating open, safe spaces where people feel they can come to report problems.

GENDER STEREOTYPING

Recent court decisions are showing that we are coming closer and closer to interpreting Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 as also including sexual orientation and gender discrimination.

While the Supreme Court has yet to make a formal ruling on this addition, companies need to be aware that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is unacceptable.

Be ready to address and define what sex or gender means in order to think about ways this issue could come up in the workplace, and consult with their HR specialists on how to avoid discrimination.

PRIVACY

If you perform background checks as part of your hiring process, you’ll want to make sure you comply with the Fair Credit Reporting Act and state-specific laws. And if you’re going to do it at all, conduct background checks on every applicant, not just some.

This means getting written permission from each applicant before doing the credit check, and notifying the applicant in writing that the credit report will be part of the employment decision.

Since credit reports often contain inaccuracies and errors anyway, from an HR standpoint it’s best to obtain credit reports only if they’re truly relevant to the position.