Retaliation Claims are on the Rise: How to Avoid Them

As reporting on suspected wrongdoing reaches historic highs, 2017 saw a 100 percent increase in retaliation claims. The 2018 Global Business Ethics Survey uncovered this shocking statistic. Driving the higher numbers are social and demographic trends, along with expanded employment laws at the state and federal levels that provide expanded protection of employees against retaliation.

The onus to prevent it, under U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) regulations, is squarely upon the employer, making it illegal to fire, demote, harass or otherwise retaliate for these reasons against either job applicants or employees. Retaliation can be stealthy and difficult to catch, so employers must be diligent and methodical in efforts to prevent it.

There are several critical elements to doing so:

Ensure a robust policy and documentation process is in place.
Policies must be highly defined and regularly communicated to everyone in the organization. And the moment human resources or any member of management hears of a complaint, they must document every single detail—everything contained in the complaint, every action taken by the company, and every conversation had with other employees.

Maintain confidentiality while investigating and resolving a complaint.
The more members of the organization who are brought into the discussion, the more likely it becomes that someone will make a comment or take an action that could be construed as retaliation. Limit the players to those immediately involved, and stress strict confidentiality to each.

Work with both sides of the complaint.
Emotions run very high when misconduct is reported. When an employee files a complaint, take it seriously and with discretion, treat them with respect, and let them know the organization will not abide retaliatory behavior. At the same time, realize the employee against whom the complaint is filed will probably be quite upset and defensive. Remind him or her of what constitutes retaliation and its potential consequences for the company.

Training is imperative.
In recent years, legal developments have significantly broadened the scope of anti-retaliation protection and lowered the burden for establishing unlawful behavior. This has given rise to the spike in retaliation claims and has made them much more difficult to defend. It is critical to educate managers and supervisors.

Syntrio’s 45-minute course, Preventing Unlawful Retaliation, discusses the protections afforded to employees under various employment laws. Using scenarios and case studies, the course discusses the types of work-related activities that are protected by law, the types of behavior that can lead to a charge, and the risks of failing to take steps to prevent unlawful retaliation in the workplace.

 

Syntrio is a leader in the human resources and employment law fields (as well as ethics and compliance) and is prepared to help your company implement a compliance program aimed at reducing the potential impact of harassment, discrimination and other employment law issues your organization may face. Syntrio takes an innovative philosophy towards employment law training program design and strives to engineer engaging, entertaining, and thought-provoking content.


Contact www.syntrio.com for more information about our discrimination, harassment, and prevention of retaliation online courses and remember to follow us on Facebook, TwitterGoogle Plus and LinkedIn for daily updates on corporate compliance that impact your company.


 

New York Passes Anti-Harassment Legislation: Let Syntrio Fulfill Your New Training Need

The past week has seen the harassment landscape in New York State change forever, as Governor Cuomo signed into law the New York State Legislature’s anti-harassment budget. Not to be outdone, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is expected to sign into law the “NYC Act,” which will amend New York City human rights law. Both laws create new requirements for employers in the city and state, but perhaps the most daunting requirement in each law is a mandate that employers within the State and City provide annual anti-harassment training for employees.

More than Just Training Requirements

In addition to the training mandate, the NYC Act brings several categories of workers under its umbrella, including contractors, subcontractor, vendors, consultants, and other persons who were not previously protected from misconduct by the City’s human rights laws. Further, the New York State law prohibits the use of nondisclosure (confidentiality) provisions in settlement or arbitration agreements relating to sexual harassment claims. Finally, the State law requires the distribution mandatory written policies aimed at prohibiting harassment in the workplace. In short, these laws, enacted within days of one another have created a significant burden on New York State and City employers, and the requirements begin going into effect soon.

Harassment Training Requirements

Because Syntrio is engaged in the business of fulfilling e-learning solutions to your harassment training needs, the crux of this article will focus on the requirements New York State and New York City have placed on employers with regard to training. You should first know that many of the articles you are reading claiming full knowledge of the requirements of these new laws are making assumptions before the laws are product[s]. Although the State and City laws provide a road map for what is coming, you should expect that regulations will be enacted to assist with implementation and compliance with both pieces of legislation that may ultimately change an analysis and interpretation of what is required in the training that is becoming mandatory in New York. So stay tuned for updates, as what we think we know at this moment may (and likely will) change.

What we Know

The New York State law is explicit in its requirement that employers must provide training to all employees. Unlike California, where supervisors must be trained once every two years on the avoidance of sexual harassment, the New York State law requires that each and every employee your company employs be provided the training annually. The laws also tell us that the New York Department of Labor will develop a model program that will be compliant and will be available for download by October 9, 2018.

Although the State has taken on the task of developing a model training that can allegedly be used by all employers, we can nearly assure you that there will be difficulty with using the State’s model training for your organization (we all know one-size-fits-all is not a quality approach to training), and this is a big reason why we are here to help. Syntrio’s training is more engaging, more concise, and more effective than what the State will be able to produce due to our vast experience and top-notch expertise in the field.

What We Don't Know: Murky Requirements (For Now)

Although the laws themselves tell us very little about the requirements of the law as they will actually be interpreted by the State and City (including the potential length requirement –likely between 1-2 hours-) we do know that the training you provide must be interactive, and provide an explanation of sexual harassment. Training must also provide examples of unlawful harassment, and discuss the federal and state statutes and remedies available to victims of harassment. Further, methods of addressing complaints (both administratively and judicially) must be discussed. In addition, the training you provide must clearly state that sexual harassment is a form of employee misconduct and sanctions will be levied against those who witness and allow it to continue, and must also mention that retaliation against those who complain is illegal.

How Can Syntrio Help?

Unquestionably, there is a lot to digest in the paragraphs above. Fortunately for you, Syntrio is always ahead of the curve when it comes to new harassment legislation and we have already begun pre-developing a course tailored to meet the needs of New York employers as the laws develop. Although the training requirement goes into effect on October 9, 2018, it is unclear at this moment when the training must be completed by all employees. Before you rush to get training complete prior to the enactment deadline, please check with Syntrio to ensure that you get the course that best suits your needs and is fully compliant with the requirements of both the New York State and New York City laws.

Syntrio is a leader in the human resources and employment law fields (as well as ethics and compliance) and is prepared to help your company implement a compliance program aimed at reducing the potential impact of harassment, discrimination and other employment law issues your organization may face. Syntrio takes an innovative philosophy towards employment law training program design and strives to engineer engaging, entertaining, and thought-provoking content.

 


Contact www.syntrio.com for more information about our discrimination, harassment, and prevention of retaliation online courses and remember to follow us on Facebook, TwitterGoogle Plus and LinkedIn for daily updates on corporate compliance that impact your company.


Written by, Jon Gonzalez, Esq., Chief Counsel for Syntrio

 

Five Ways to Prevent Workplace Violence

As Workplace Violence Prevention Month draws to a close, all employers should be thinking about ongoing efforts to understand what workplace violence looks like, how to recognize and diffuse potentially violent situations, and how to prevent them in the first place

Every year, 1 in 4 full-time American workers become victims of workplace violence, but it can be prevented with a considered approach.

A critical first step is a zero tolerance policy for this behavior against or by anyone associated with your place of work. This means employees at all levels of the organization, as well as contractors, clients and customers, and visitors.

To be able to recognize workplace violence hazards, communicate OSHA’s definition of “any act or threat of physical violence, harassment, intimidation, or other threatening disruptive behavior that occurs at the work site.”

It’s also extremely important for employees to have an avenue to report incidents. Management must encourage workers to communicate openly with them and report any concerns without fear of retaliation.

Establishing an emergency response plan for events such as a violent intruder or a disgruntled former employee is also a sensible step, provided it is communicated well and regularly. Where possible, reach out to local law enforcement to help with staging mock crisis exercises.

Finally, there is no substitute for regular training. Syntrio is committed to helping businesses avoid tragic and costly incidents associated with violent acts in the workplace.

Our Preventing Workplace Violence course covers the following:

  • Types of workplace violence
  • Risk factors for violence
  • Behaviors and physical warning signs of potentially violent individuals
  • Violence prevention policies and procedures that help reduce the incidence of workplace violence
  • Steps to protect you and others in situations of an active shooter
  • How to respond appropriately to threatening or violent situations

We can custom tailor our courses to fit the specific needs of your business.

 

 

Syntrio is a leader in the human resources and employment law fields (as well as ethics and compliance) and is prepared to help your company implement a compliance program aimed at reducing the potential impact of harassment, discrimination and other employment law issues your organization may face. Syntrio takes an innovative philosophy towards employment law training program design and strives to engineer engaging, entertaining, and thought-provoking content.


Contact www.syntrio.com for more information about our discrimination, harassment, and prevention of retaliation online courses and remember to follow us on Facebook, TwitterGoogle Plus and LinkedIn for daily updates on corporate compliance that impact your company.


 

Building an Ethical Culture: the Basics

Even within the same industry, organizations can have radically different cultures. There are norms, both tacit and explicit, that address how colleagues interact, how management communicates with employees, and how customers are treated. In terms of ethics, some companies pay lip service to ethical behavior, while others walk the walk.

For long-term success and to attract the best talent, those with a truly ethical culture are the winners.

So how can organizations build a resilient yet flexible culture that values ethics throughout its ranks? First, it’s important to establish and communicate what behaviors are constructive and to be encouraged, and which others undermine an ethical mission. Companies that take the time to ask all employees what specifically works and what is clearly unethical within their respective roles can develop a clear set of guidelines that can be communicated across numerous channels.

The tone at the top also matters a great deal. Employees follow the lead not just of their immediate managers, but look to senior leadership for cues on how to behave. If a CEO demonstrates unimpeachable integrity in all she says—and more importantly, what she does—that can go a long way in shaping what happens at all levels of the organization.

While it’s a simple truth that reinforcing behavior that is desirable and refraining from reinforcing that which is not, many commercial pressures can work against it. Organizations must be mindful, intentional and articulate about which behaviors they wish to encourage and which they do not. Incentives can range from monetary rewards to accolades and recognition. The important thing is to be clear and consistent in providing thoughtful and corrective feedback that is rooted not in punishment but in education.

If people are going to behave ethically, they need to be given the tools to do so. Having a leader focused exclusively (or almost exclusively) on ethics provides a point person within the organization.

Equally important is appropriate training. Syntrio’s online courses are designed to address the most pressing and broadly applicable business ethics and HR compliance training issues. Each customizable course provides practical guidance on employment laws and other legal and ethical concerns that may arise in the workplace. For a full list of our training options, click here.

Syntrio is a leader in the human resources and employment law fields (as well as ethics and compliance) and is prepared to help your company implement a compliance program aimed at reducing the potential impact of harassment, discrimination and other employment law issues your organization may face. Syntrio takes an innovative philosophy towards employment law training program design and strives to engineer engaging, entertaining, and thought-provoking content.


Contact www.syntrio.com for more information about our discrimination, harassment, and prevention of retaliation online courses and remember to follow us on Facebook, TwitterGoogle Plus and LinkedIn for daily updates on corporate compliance that impact your company.


 

Where We Are Going We Don’t Need Roads

You may have put some thought into the effectiveness (or lack thereof) of your sexual harassment training in recent months. Perhaps the pervasiveness of news articles on the subject has piqued your interest, or [more hopefully] you are genuinely concerned with preventing misconduct in your organization. In either event, you may be thinking about how simple “check the box” training is not getting the job done. If so, you are probably right.

A number of studies in recent years have shown that all methods of compliance training, as most commonly presented, are ineffective.

This means that the lawyer in front of a lectern isn’t working, nor is the simple text-based program you are feeding your employees. At Syntrio we have put a lot of thought and hours into creating more effective training and do so in response to cries from the market for more engaging training.

According to a recent article in Chief Learning Officer, some companies are taking e-learning to the next level of empathy by placing users in a virtual reality environment with victims and harassers all at once. By using 360 video, there is the belief that a more immersed user will be a more engaged user. Although the end result is likely correct, the cost of such a program is obviously sky-high at the moment. Even as virtual reality headsets like Sony’s PlayStation VR drop in price on a near weekly basis, implementing a virtual reality training program at the moment is not cost-effective for most companies.

Syntrio has heard the calls for more engaging training and has listened. We are constantly developing new methods of immersive training that allows the user to position him or herself in the eyes of the victim and harasser alike, so as to connect with the training in a way that simply is not occurring in the marketplace (absent of extremely expensive technology like a virtual reality headset).

We believe the key to successful training lies in the writing.

Users are tired of reading about a random girl named Nicole, with whom they have no connection. We know that e-learning needs to do better, so we have taken the steps necessary to become more engaging and interactive in our sexual harassment training programs. Although you may not be strapping on a headset with 360-degree video in Syntrio’s programs you certainly will come away feeling emotionally connected to the programs in a way you will not with most products on the market. We invite you to contact us to learn more.

Syntrio is a leader in the human resources and employment law fields (as well as ethics and compliance) and is prepared to help your company implement a compliance program aimed at reducing the potential impact of harassment, discrimination and other employment law issues your organization may face. Syntrio takes an innovative philosophy towards employment law training program design and strives to engineer engaging, entertaining, and thought-provoking content.

 


Contact www.syntrio.com for more information about our discrimination, harassment, and prevention of retaliation online courses and remember to follow us on Facebook, TwitterGoogle Plus and LinkedIn for daily updates on corporate compliance that impact your company.


Written by, Jon Gonzalez, Esq., Chief Counsel for Syntrio