Robin Shea at Employment and Labor Insider had a great post a couple of days ago on common misconceptions about employment laws that trip up employers.

It is surprising how often employers think the law allows freedom to act without risk of bad consequences when precisely the opposite is true.  I call them “employment law myths”.     

Robin’s post lists her top five misconceptions, and invites others to contribute theirs.  Here are three of the most common myths I see on a regular basis: 

1) Employment “at will”.     In theory, this is still the law in Iowa.  The reality is that exceptions to employment at will have become so numerous that they swallow the rule.  Discrimination because of race, gender, disability, age, etc., retaliation, and violation of public policy are some of the typical exceptions, but there are others. 

2)  Probationary Employment.  Many employers designate the first 3-6 months of employment as a "probationary period", and sometimes think they can terminate an employee at any time for any reason during that period without consequence (see employment at will, above).

3)  Employees are Prohibited from Discussing Compensation.  There is a little law called the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA).   Most of us think about the NLRA only in connection with unions, but it applies to non-union employers as well.  Among other things, the NLRA allows employees to engage in “protected” and “concerted" activity, which includes communicating information about wages and benefits.    Although an employer can’t be sued in court for violating this law, there is an administrative complaint procedure under the NLRA that can be almost as cumbersome.

The best advice before making termination decision or taking other serious action aganist an employee: pause, take a deep breath, and consider consulting with your lawyer first.