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HR Esq

Management Training and Legal Implications

Devora Lindeman
Contributor: Devora Lindeman
Posted: 06/10/2008

Your company implemented an employee handbook to tighten legal protections. While a good first step, with the current legal landscape, this action is not enough. Companies could still be at risk for employee legal claims if managers do not know what to do or when to liaise with human resources. Manager training fills this gap.

Almost every manager/subordinate interaction, if handled incorrectly, could embroil the company in a costly lawsuit. Prudent companies train managers so they are not unnecessarily exposed to employee legal claims. In some states, managers can be personally liable to the employee. In certain situations, manager training could provide the company with a legal defense. Thus, securing manager training is a vital human resources role.

Most companies know to provide sexual harassment training, but the following identifies some additional areas that human resources should ensure are covered in regular manager training programs:

  • What should be asked during hiring interviews? Some questions are verboten, discriminatory and can be the basis of a lawsuit if the employee is not hired. How does a manager select the right employee for the job without violating discrimination laws?
  • How should non-performers or otherwise problematic employees be performance-managed, and how do you create a sufficient paper trail documenting performance improvement efforts to support a termination if improvement does not follow? Why do companies located in at-will states that permit employee terminations for any reason or no reason still need a good reason to terminate what is supported by proper documentation?
  • How do you handle employee harassment or discrimination complaints brought "in confidence"? Such delicate situations are fraught with legal implications and human resources must be involved. What should managers do if employees cannot work because of personal illness or injury? Although the company may have a ceiling on paid sick days, disability discrimination laws as well as leave laws may require the company to provide additional time. In most cases, managers should not be dealing with extended sick leave situations and must know to transition the situation to human resources.
  • What should managers do when employees have physical conditions preventing satisfactory job performance? As most human resources professionals know, employers may be legally required to provide reasonable accommodations to otherwise qualified disabled employees that do not cause an undue hardship on the company. Most managers have no clue what that mouthful means, nor do they know how to engage in the legally required interactive process to resolve such a situation. They must be trained to involve human resources.
  • Exempt? Non-Exempt? Working Overtime? Working through lunch? Wage and hour issues carry large legal liabilities, along with potentially double or triple damages and payment of the employees’ legal fees. Managers and executives need to know how to comply with the applicable wage and hour laws.

Periodic manager trainings by employment lawyers in these and other areas provide added legal protections for the company and can help human resources professionals sleep better knowing they are not the only ones aware of the legal risks inherent in manager/employee interactions.

Devora Lindeman
Contributor: Devora Lindeman
Posted: 06/10/2008