How On-Going Employee Education Can Help Reduce Your Liability

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Education is important. Now that September is upon us, we are reminded of this when we see the yellow school buses around our neighborhoods each morning and afternoon. Education is important for your employees as well. It can help reduce your liability as a business owner for the actions or inactions of your employees. This posting will look at some of the important training that employers should provide.

Harassment and Discrimination: Perhaps this is the most common training for employees. All employees need to know the liability that their employer is exposed to for their  actions. In addition, they must learn what constitutes sexual harassment and bullying. If there are employees from different cultures, this might be especially important as there are varying views around the world about what is and is not acceptable behavior in the workplace. Finally, employees and in particular managers and supervisors need to learn what classes are protected under state and federal anti-discrimination laws, such as sexual orientation and marital status.

Social Media: This is an area of employment law that is constantly evolving. Employees and managers should be aware of their rights within the workplace for what they say online. They might be surprised to learn that in a private workplace, these rights are few. Defamation should be explained and examples provided about how complaints and postings on websites like Yelp have been used for defamation claims. Managers and HR should be informed about how to use (or not to use) social media when screening applicants and what information can and cannot be used for employment decisions like hiring and promoting.

Disability and FMLA: The FMLA is what got me thinking about the importance of on-going education. The ADA has undergone tremendous change in the last years, and employers need to keep their managers informed about what accommodations should be offered, and how they should react when employees have medical issues, or the managers suspect that there might be issues. Managers should be instructed on how to handle employees with disability accommodation requests and to deal with medical leave issues, such as under the FMLA. Employers can be liable if managers fail to act in some cases, and education is the best way to make sure this doesn’t occur.

Keeping Proper Documentation: Documentation is key for a well-run business. For matters like medical leave, managers and supervisors should be taught to write down verbatim the employees words when they request leave; doing so can help defend against claims. Likewise, all disability and discrimination matters (such as requests for accommodations) and terminations and discipline issues should be well documented. Informing managers on what should and shouldn’t be written down is key in developing a good defense if and when employees or former employees file claims or complaints.

These are only a few areas where employers should consider providing on-going education for their employees. September is the ideal month to start planning on some training sessions as we all think about going back to school at this time of year.

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