Speak Up! Reporting Ethics Violations is Serious Business

Rarely a day goes by without a headline about a career toppled over an ethics violation. All too frequently the subsequent text reveals a trail of unheeded warning signs uncovered by the investigation following the incident. Indeed, corruption, carelessness, and unethical behavior often go unreported, which presents a serious problem for companies seeking to maintain a culture of compliance.

Statistics show that ethics violations are going unreported at an alarming rate. Indeed, approximately 60 percent of employees surveyed responded that they had witnessed at least one ethics violation at their current place of employment, yet only 45 to 60 percent of those bothered to report it. Worse yet, how serious an ethics violation has little to do with whether an employee is willing to report the violation, and managers committed a full 60 percent of the violations witnessed.

The key to maintaining a positive ethical culture at your company is to encourage a “speak up” culture wherein employees hold one another accountable and where everyone feels comfortable identifying and reporting wrongdoing before consequences occur. In general, you should encourage employees to immediately report known or suspected misconduct if they feel the act could have a detrimental impact on the employee, their co-workers, or the company as a whole.

What Acts are “Reportable Offenses?”

There are a variety of reportable violations that your managers should make employees aware of, so that they are not left in the dark about what is a “reportable” offense. The most common forms of violations are as follows:

  • Theft
  • Improper use of time and resources
  • Breach of confidentiality
  • Safety violations
  • Discrimination or Harassment
  • Abusive Behavior
  • Bribery
  • Fraud
  • Falsifying records and reports

Of course, there are hundreds of other ethics questions that cross into the “grey” area of reporting. As a company, it is your job to educate and instruct your employees about how to identify and report misconduct so that it does not continue. “SPEAK UP!”

Syntrio is committed to helping businesses avoid costly incidents associated with ethics violations in the workplace. We are also able to custom-tailor our courses to fit the needs of your business. Contact www.syntrio.com for more information about our ethics and code of conduct online courses for employees and management and remember to follow us on Twitter, Google Plus and LinkedIn for daily updates on compliance that impact your company!

Stay tuned, as next week we will examine the proper channels for reporting ethics violations that an employee witnesses at your company, and how to choose which method is right for you.

U.S. Department of Labor Announces Increased Salary Requirement for Overtime Exemptions

 

Last year we informed you of the United States Department of Labor (“DOL”) proposal to amend the white-collar overtime exemption to increase the salary threshold necessary to be considered exempt from the FLSA overtime laws. On May 23, 2016, the DOL announced the long-awaited revision to its regulations, which more than doubles the minimum salary requirement to qualify for the overtime exemption. This change will have significant implications for employers across the country.

According to statistics published by the DOL, the amended regulations will require employers to pay overtime to as many as 4 million additional employees unless their salary is increased to the new minimum threshold. The new regulations take effect December 1, 2016, and raise the requirement for exempt status from $23,660 ($455 per week) to $47,476 ($913 per week).

It is important to remember that the salary requirement under the FLSA will be adjusted for inflation every three years, so this is not a one-time increase. That said, the so-called “duties test” (meaning the primary duties the employee performs must fall into the administrative, professional or executive classification) was not changed under the amended regulations.

Now would be an excellent time for your company to schedule online wage and hour training for your managers. Given the large number of employees who now may be subject to overtime compensation (or a healthy raise), it is important to review all of the wage and hour laws that are the subject of significant litigation throughout the country.

The DOL changes also present special problems for California employers, as the federal salary threshold is actually higher than that currently required under state law (twice the minimum wage). This means that a significant number of employees in California will need salary review to see if they still qualify for overtime exemptions. Further, California’s recently enacted staggered minimum wage increases will place the California salary threshold higher than the federal standard by 2019, causing continued confusion for employers.

Syntrio is committed to helping businesses avoid costly incidents associated with wage and hour litigation. Syntrio’s cost-effective wage and hour training courses are designed with the decision-making management employee in mind. Therefore, the examples used within are real-life scenarios that are easy to comprehend, even when the user does not have a technical background in wage and hour law. 

Contact www.syntrio.com for more information about our wage and hour courses for employees and management and remember to follow us on Twitter, Google Plus and LinkedIn for daily updates on compliance that impact your company.

Study Unveils the Principles of a High Quality Compliance Program: Part II 

Last week we discussed how online ethics and compliance training can help foster the key principles of a quality compliance program in your organization. By way of review, we explained how a commitment to online training programs: 1) evidences ethics and compliance as a central focus of your business strategy; 2) allows your organization to assess, own, identify, and mitigate risk; and 3) assists your leaders with building and sustaining a culture of integrity in the workplace. Those forward-thinking aspects absolutely help your organization instill a culture of ethics and compliance.

This week’s sequel discusses the value of online training programs when an ethics or compliance issue has already arisen, and how your managers and employees will be better prepared to deal with those issues having taken the online training courses available to them from Syntrio. Without further ado, we present to you the fourth and fifth principles of a quality compliance program:

  1. High-quality Compliance Programs Value and Protect the Reporting Concerns and Suspected Wrongdoing

It is one thing to say that you have an “open-door policy” or that all complaints will be investigated, it is quite another for employees to be truly informed and educated about the corporate philosophy of handling complaints. Syntrio’s anti-retaliation, anti-harassment, anti-discrimination, and other courses all have detailed sections on the importance of reporting suspected violations, and the proper way for managers to handle and deal with complaints.

All too often companies “check-the-box” with a policy or practice of non-retaliation or “whistleblower” provisions, yet when the time comes a manager or supervisor is ill-equipped to actually handle the complaint. These managers frequently silence the complaining employee or question whether his or her behavior had something to do with the alleged misconduct. When managers and employees alike have had detailed training on the company’s philosophy of handling complaints and suspected misconduct in a legally and ethically compliant manner the key tenet of valuing complaints can be achieved.

  1. Top-notch Compliance Requires Accountability when Wrongdoing Occurs

Admitting mistakes can be difficult. All too often executives and managers think about dollars and cents when there is a suspicion of misconduct. This may mean avoiding a lawsuit at any cost, even resorting to retaliation to “quell the rebellion” so to speak. However, in order to truly prepare your organization for full accountability it is important that your employees and managers know the ins and outs of handling ethics and compliance issues in the workplace. By preparing your company with online training courses from Syntrio, your workforce will be ready to do just that.

We again remind you that Syntrio is committed to helping businesses avoid costly incidents associated with ethics and compliance missteps. We are also able to custom-tailor our courses to fit the needs of your business. Contact www.syntrio.com for more information about our vast library of online training courses for employees and management and remember to follow us on Twitter, Google Plus and LinkedIn for daily updates on compliance that impact your company!

 

Study Unveils the Principles of a High Quality Compliance Program: Part I

A new study conducted by the non-profit Ethics and Compliance Initiative has revealed striking detail about the common tenets of quality corporate compliance programs. It is no secret that ethics and compliance plays a vital role in maintaining the success and sustainability of any company or organization. Although at present there are a wide variety of methods of achieving broad-based compliance in the workplace, studies such as the one conducted by ECI’s blue-ribbon panel are revealing that nearly all organizations have the same goals.

Unquestionably, the most effective way to meet compliance goals is to make available online training to the workforce that provides the education necessary carry out your ideals. This two-part article will illustrate the key principles of a quality compliance program (as identified by ECI’s panel) and how Syntrio’s online training is suited to meet those principles.

  1. Ethics and Compliance is Central to Business Strategy

All top executives understand that in today’s day and age they need to keep compliance at the forefront of the business model. To that end, there is simply no greater way to keep this ideal visible than to subscribe to a host of online training programs specifically aimed at instilling the ideals of ethics and compliance into your corporate routine.

  1. Ethics and Compliance Risks are Owned, Identified, Managed, and Mitigated

Hiding the proverbial corporate head in the sand simply is not going to cut it. Companies of all sizes are going to face ethics and compliance issues and risks. Those companies who choose to be proactive, and train their employees on how to identify the issues, own up to them, and mitigate the damages stemming from present issues are those who will be able to deal with the inevitable. For this reason, it is important that companies do more than just “check the box” by providing a catch-all training program. Indeed, Syntrio’s vast library of specific topics will have your employees prepared to deal with nearly any issue that may arise.

  1. Leaders at all Levels Build and Sustain a Culture of Integrity

True leaders are visionaries. They see the world two moves in advance. With that vision comes an eye towards teaching; however, the greatest teachers cannot teach without the proper tools. This is why Syntrio has created a vast library of online ethics and compliance courses that are the tools of the leadership trade. By providing employees with the opportunity to come to a mentor after taking the short training programs, your company leadership will be empowered to instill the vision and corporate ideals as you see fit while discussing the corporate ethos with a far more educated workforce.

Next week we will address the remaining key principles of a quality ethics and compliance program. We remind you that Syntrio is committed to helping businesses avoid costly incidents associated with ethics and compliance missteps. We are also able to custom-tailor our courses to fit the needs of your business. Contact www.syntrio.com for more information about our vast library of online training courses for employees and management and remember to follow us on Twitter, Google Plus, and LinkedIn for daily updates on compliance that impact your company!

 

Chicago Regional Business Ethics Network Presentation Highlights Need for Global Anti-Corruption Training

On April 14, 2016 the Chicago Regional Business Ethics Network hosted a presentation by former FCPA violator and FBI/UK cooperator turned Anti-Bribery consultant Richard Bistrong. Several members of Syntrio’s staff were in attendance at the presentation, wherein Bistrong candidly provided the details of his path to the “dark side” in crossing ethical boundaries in foreign dealings while employed as a sales executive with a major U.S. corporation between 1997 and 2007.

Bistrong discussed his journey into a life of white-collar crime, as well as general bribery and business attitudes on foreign soil. Bistrong also stated that when he was hired, he was provided with a copy of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (“FCPA”), told to read it, and never given any other education on bribery or the corruption of foreign officials in overseas dealings. The fascinating presentation continued to detail Bistrong’s cooperation with the FBI and UK law enforcement culminating in Bistrong’s sentencing to fourteen months in a Pennsylvania federal penitentiary.

Bistrong’s presentation highlights the need for detailed global anti-corruption training by corporations doing business overseas. For years, U.S. corporations were concerned primarily with the FCPA and its prohibitions on bribing foreign officials. In the modern era, anyone engaging in business dealings with foreign officials or international entities must also abide by global anti-corruption laws, including the U.K. Bribery Act, legislation arising from the International Organization for Economic Co-Operation & Development (“OECD”) and emerging legislation in Brazil, Russia, India and China (the “BRIC” nations). Failing to understand and observe these laws can result in illegal business practices and expose individuals and their organizations to civil or criminal penalties.

We must remind you, simply reading the news is not enough. As Bistrong’s story shows, even the most well-intentioned corporate officers can be led astray by their affirmation that “this is how business is done overseas” or corrupt dealings involving relatively small sums of money are a “win-win for everyone.” All too many businesses are sending their employees to far away lands armed only with the text of the law, a risky and dangerous strategy that is outdated in today’s marketplace. 

Armed with the knowledge that companies need to educate their employees on how to ethically and legally conduct business overseas, Syntrio recently developed a detailed online global anti-corruption course designed to help companies instruct their employees on operating within the boundaries of the new world order of international law. Rather than just provide a synopsis of the law, Syntrio’s bribery and corruption course takes the user through real-world scenarios designed to teach the finer points of anti-bribery and corruption laws that trip up even the most savvy of managers and executives.

Syntrio is committed to helping businesses avoid costly incidents associated with bribery and foreign corrupt practices. We are also able to custom-tailor our courses to fit the needs of your business. Contact www.syntrio.com for more information about our anti-corruption and bribery online courses for employees and management and remember to follow us on Twitter, Google Plus and LinkedIn for daily updates on compliance that impact your company!