12 areas of employment law training your managers need
Wednesday, September 14, 2016
Managers today need varied types of training to do their jobs effectively.
This article outlines the basic types of training managers should receive in the area of labor and employment law to effectively perform their jobs. Such training will go a long way toward preventing or at least minimizing legal liability for employment-related claims for employers.
1. Basic labor and employment laws
Managers need to have some basic understanding of the wide array of labor and employment laws that may apply in their workplace. An introduction to and overview of these laws is often one of the first classes in any program of employment law training for managers.
Subsequent classes can drill down on specific labor and employment law topics. The goal of such training is to help managers spot issues so they can know when to seek counsel for matters that may have legal implications.
2. Interviewing, selection and hiring
Getting the "right" employees is the cornerstone to employee relations success.
Many laws — such as the Fair Credit Reporting Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act — limit pre-employment inquiries, tests, background checks and other aspects of the screening, interviewing and selection processes. Managers involved in these processes need to know these legal limitations and how to get the best employees in a legally compliant way.
3. Discipline and discharge
The vast majority of employment law claims come after an employee is discharged from employment. No single employment transaction is more likely to lead to litigation. Thus, discipline and discharge is one of the most essential of all manager training topics.
4. Performance management
Performance management is about getting the best out of employees. All human resources transactions should be oriented toward achieving this end result.
Effective performance management includes getting the best employees, communicating the employer's expectations, rules and standards, constructively coaching employees, disciplining underperformers and weeding out those who fail to meet the employer's standards for performance or conduct.
5. Documentation and record-keeping
Lawyers have a saying: "It is not about the facts; it is about the evidence." Others may say an event did not really occur if it was not properly documented.
Many employment laws impose specific record-keeping obligations on employers, and hence their managers. Documentation is a form of communicating clearly with employees. It is also a way to keep an accurate history of events should downstream litigation occur.
Managers need to know what documentation they should create and how to preserve it in compliance with applicable laws.
6. Discrimination, harassment and retaliation
Many civil rights laws protect applicants and employees from discrimination, harassment and retaliation. Special training is required so that managers know about these laws and how to comply with them. Some states even require this type of training.
7. Attendance and leaves
The federal Family and Medical Leave Act and similar state and local laws give employees certain rights when they have to miss work for medical reasons, childbirth or adoptions. These laws are not intuitive and require special paperwork for compliance.
Managers need to know the basics so they do not unwittingly get their employers in trouble.
8. Disabilities, pregnancy and religious beliefs
Historically, managers were trained to treat everyone the same. But now, employers have a statutory duty to make reasonable accommodations for qualified individuals with disabilities using an individualized, interactive process. Similarly, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and case law impose requirements on employers to accommodate individuals based on their religion and pregnancy.
This duty to accommodate basically means employers have to make exceptions for individuals in certain protected categories. Managers need to know when and how to make these exceptions.
9. Safety and health
Maintaining a safe workplace is probably the most important obligation of any employer. Managers need to be aware of their employer's commitment to safety and what is expected of them as managers.
Plus, some training is required by applicable safety and health laws. Training should be conducted about the employer's drug and alcohol policy, testing practices, consequences of violations and other drug- or alcohol-related topics that may be required by applicable federal or state laws. In the current climate, employers should also consider training about how to deal with an active shooter and other workplace violence issues.
10. Electronic communications and employee privacy
Employees use all sorts of electronic communications and/or social media these days. Managers should be trained about the employer's rights and obligations under the applicable labor and employment statutes and case law.
For example, the National Labor Relations Board has some specific guidance and case law limiting policies and so-called "Facebook firings." Similarly, managers should know that privacy laws and decisions also play a role in governing this area.
11. Unionized workforce
Regardless of whether an employer's workers are represented by a union or whether the organization wants to remain union-free, managers need to know about the relative rights of employees and employers under the National Labor Relations Act. By knowing these relative rights, managers can work toward achieving the employer's labor relations goals while complying with the applicable law.
12. Government contractor and affirmative action obligations
Employers who do business with the federal government are subject to a unique set of laws, regulations and executive orders. In fact, the U.S. Department of Labor administers more than 60 such requirements. Managers need to know about these special obligations if they work for a covered federal contractor.
This list of the types of employment law training that managers should receive is not comprehensive. Depending on an employer’s industry, location or other individual considerations, other employment law training may be necessary.
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