The “Three Strikes” of Illegal Employer Action

Now that two full months have passed in calendar 2015 it is a good time to take a quick look at the most common forms of misconduct committed by employers. Indeed, employers are commonly making mistakes and violating laws in today’s workplace, and the only way to reduce these incidents is to keep the issues in the forefront. When managers can identify a problem before it gets out of hand, proper training and education can have he or she prepared with a solution.

Employers are Understanding that Litigation is a Sunk Cost

Fewer employees fear the perceived team of expensive defense attorneys and threats of retaliation if they complain about employer misconduct than in years past. As such, more employees are carrying out their threats of filing a lawsuit against their current or former employers. With that knowledge in mind, employers are beginning to see that fighting the problem on the back end using high priced attorneys is not the way to run a business. Instead, the common management pitfalls are ripe for training to proactively combat the problem, and many business owners are taking an offensive approach to employment law and human resources issues.

1. Discrimination

Discrimination claims are by far the most common form of employee lawsuit. Discrimination is when someone is treated less favorably (or more favorably in some cases) because of his or her membership in a protected class (i.e. race, sex, religion, etc.) There are longstanding federal and state laws prohibiting discrimination in the workplace, yet it persists as the most common form of employee charge today. Although employers are doing their best to eliminate bias in the workplace, certain prejudices persist among rogue managers, and therefore discrimination is a problem that is not going away.

2. Retaliation

Retaliation is a form of discrimination that occurs in conjunction with a discharge or other adverse employment action such as a demotion, pay decrease, lack of promotion or other disciplinary action and occurs as the result of an employee complaint or refusing to commit what he or she believes to be an illegal act (among other things). By learning how to properly handle employee complaints and requests to exercise statutory rights there is a great reduction in the risk that a retaliation claim will even be brought by a disgruntled employee.

3. Wage and Hour Violations

Unless your company employees all overtime exempt employees you are obligated under federal law to pay added compensation for employee hours worked in excess of forty in one week (there are also states that impose even stricter requirements on employers such as California). As you are also undoubtedly aware, the federal law requires payment of a minimum wage of at least $7.25 per hour (or higher in many states).

There are a significant number of traps that employers fall into with respect to the wage and hour laws, and managers are wise to learn the intricacies of federal and state wage and hour laws. Your employees certainly are brushing up on their internet research!

Syntrio is Available to Discuss Cost-Effective Training

The aforementioned topics merely scratch the surface of the three most common types of employee lawsuits. All companies can benefit from taking a proactive approach toward employment law issues, which is why Syntrio offers a robust LMS containing products that meet nearly every compliance need that can arise within a company or particular industry. Further, if something you need is currently unavailable, our team of experts will develop a course custom-tailored to suit your needs.

Contact Syntrio for more information and remember to follow us on TwitterGoogle Plus and LinkedIn for daily updates on employment law and compliance issues that may impact your business!

 

Relax, it’s Just a Pinch? This Could be the Wrong St. Patrick’s Day Mantra

For many, St. Patricks’ day conjures images of day drinking, parades, hoards of people wearing green, and of course the singling out and systematic battery of those who choose not to conform. Although the pursuit of a civil battery action against someone who pinched another on St. Patrick’s Day sounds ridiculous, there is a growing segment of the population who is offended by what they consider to be a vile and non-playful holiday tradition.

As with anything else, employers need to be cognizant of the sensitivities of their employees at all times, and should follow a strict set of guidelines when it comes to celebrating St. Patrick’s Day, Halloween, or any other holiday that could cause even the slightest offense. Failure to do so could have expensive results.

Background on St. Patrick’s Day in the United States

The tradition of wearing green on St. Patrick’s day started in the 1700’s in the United States when revelers felt wearing green would keep leprechauns away. The green-wearing clan would pinch anyone not wearing green as a reminder that the leprechauns were going to sneak up on the abstainers and cause them harm.

As you can see, the tradition carries with it a long-standing sense of “in-group” versus “out-group” mentality. While innocent in nature by most social standards, this sort of divisiveness is exactly the sort of thing that needs to be prevented in the office setting. Therefore, it is extremely important to set some guidelines reminding employees that while the company encourages celebration and expression of beliefs and all heritages, employees have a right to be free from offensive touching in the workplace. In short, it is best to leave the “pinch” to places where it is more acceptable, wherever that may be.

St. Patrick’s Day Can be Stressful

A woman recently wrote an article articulating her stress over St. Patrick’s Day while growing up. Therein, the author detailed her account of forgetting to wear green and being pinched and ostracized by her classmates, leading to psychological turmoil years later.

It is not hard to envision the scenario where an employee who was traumatized as a child at school over a simple holiday tradition may feel uncomfortable with such a celebration in his or her adult place of employment. Therefore, it is simply best to train managers and employees on boundaries for all holidays, including the mid-March celebration. Suffice to say, “Kiss me, I’m Irish” is probably an inappropriate comment to make in the office as well!

Online Training Courses Prepare Your Managers for the Most Abstract of Situations

Prior to reading this article you probably never thought you would encounter a situation where you would need to police the celebration of St. Patrick’s Day in the office. This sort of surprise is where online harassment training is extremely useful. Syntrio’s courses use real-life scenarios similar to the one discussed above to instruct managers on how to identify potential harassment problems before they start.

Syntrio’s team of experts are ready to show you more about our vast learning management systems, which include a variety of employee-privacy based courses to suit all needs. If you feel you need more specific training to your particular business or industry we would be more than happy to create a custom course for you. Contact Syntrio for more information and remember to follow us on TwitterGoogle Plus and LinkedIn for daily updates on employment law and compliance issues that may impact your business!

 

The Tablet of Compliance Disaster: Avoiding the Perils of Bring Your Own Device Policies

As Americans, our smartphones and tablet devices are essential elements of the information wardrobe, and we are so attached that we never leave home without them. For many Americans, losing a mobile device brings greater fear than losing a wallet or a purse. Based upon this mentality, it is no wonder that as many as ninety percent (90%) of employees perform work-based tasks from their personal devices, and employers have responded by implementing bring-your-own-device (“BYOD”) policies whether they choose to pay the costs (in some states such as California this is mandatory) or not.

Performing Work Based Tasks on Personal Devices Has Significant Issues

Let’s return to the fear of losing a device that was discussed above. Joe is a registered nurse working at a pediatric clinic. While away on a conference Joe sits down at the airport gate to have a Face Time chat with his family before boarding the plane. After ending the conversation, Joe leaves his phone plugged into the charging station he was using and boards the plane leaving his phone behind. Panic ensues at 30,000 feet.

Joe stores confidential patient vaccination records and other work-related on his phone. Since Joe did not put a password on his phone, the information is now accessible to anyone who finds Joe’s phone. Unfortunately for Joe, an Internet troll found Joe’s phone and posted confidential information about Joe’s patients on his pro-vaccination blog, which publicly calls out parents who choose not to vaccinate their children. Joe and the clinic he works for have just committed major HIPAA and other privacy-related violations.

A Well-Crafted Policy Can Reduce the Risk of Violations

While Joe’s story may seem fantastic and unbelievable, something very similar happened in a train station in New York in late January 2015. Therefore, if your business is going to use a BYOD policy it is extremely important that your employees be fully educated and aware of all potential privacy violations and follow the minimum guidelines set forth in this article in order to reduce the risk of violations.

Outline the Permissible Work-Related Uses of a Personal Device

Your policy should document the allowed work-related uses of personal devices. In Joe’s case, it would have been wise to prohibit employees from transferring confidential information to their personal devices and instead store such information on a company owned, password-protected device.

Ensure that Security Protocols are Followed at all Times

The policy should clearly outline that employees are required to use adequate password and virus-protection measures in order to reduce the risk of a situation like Joe’s from occurring. Today’s smartphones feature wiping mechanisms in the event that a device is lost or stolen, and it is essential that employer policies require employees to have such security measures in place.

Update Human Resources Policies to Include Statements on Privacy

Review social media and other privacy policies to ensure that they are consistent with the BYOD policy. All too often we see employees post work-related information to social media accounts by accident. When mixing personal and work-related uses it is important that all of the HR policies be consistent.

Engage in Privacy Related Training Courses for all Supervisors and Employees

There is simply no substitute for online-based training courses that review the relevant employment and privacy laws that are relevant to BYOD policies. With more and more information available to employees, there is a greater likelihood that it could be co-mingled with personal information and ultimately violate a myriad of laws. Accordingly, the employer is best protected by engaging in short, cost-effective employee privacy training that reviews the risks of exposing client, employee, or patient data.

Syntrio’s team of experts are ready to show you more about our vast learning management systems, which include a variety of employee-privacy based courses to suit all needs. If you feel you need more specific training to your particular business or industry we would be more than happy to create a custom course for you. Contact Syntrio for more information and remember to follow us on Twitter, Google Plus and LinkedIn for daily updates on employment law and compliance issues that may impact your business!