‘Tis the Season — for ethical gift-giving practices

Business is a human, social activity that focuses on building and strengthen relationships. And so, offering gifts can, at certain times, be a valuable part of business as a way to demonstrate respect or show appreciation for a customer or partner organization, including for business partners in other cultures.

Ethical Snapshot: Helpful reminders about the proper role of business gifts and entertainment and when they lead to questionable practices.

Why could an issue arise?

While gifts and entertainment are often given and received in business, they can be a hotbed for ethics and legal concerns. Depending on the context in which a gift is offered, gift-giving may be misconstrued by others as:

  • A conflict of interest
  • A way to provide improper influence on a business decision
  • Attempted bribery or kickback

What could happen?

Poorly considered exchanges of business courtesies could:

  • Disqualify your organization from potential business opportunities
  • Lead to legal fines and other sanctions
  • Smear reputations
  • Ruin careers

What should you do before giving a gift?

Offering gifts or entertainment should not put you, your colleagues or your organization at risk. Before you exchange these business courtesies within a business setting, you should be asking yourself three questions:

  1. What are the rules for exchanging gifts and entertainment?
  2. Are the local customs for the exchange of business courtesies appropriate for my business and the situation?
  3. Should I seek guidance on the subject, and is this guidance sound?

What should you do before receiving a gift?

When acting on behalf of an organization, individuals should never accept gifts and benefits unless it is clear that the particular gift or benefit:

  1. Does not diminish the authority or ability of the organization’s representative to independently make decisions and act in the best interest of the organization
  2. Enhances the best interests of the organization as a whole, either by providing more time to learn about the inner workings of the client or company being served, or education about the greater corporate community as a whole
  3. Has no apparent impact on professional judgment or appearance of bias.

About Ethical Snapshots: Ethical snapshots are microlearning and communications modules designed to address a range of ethics and compliance issues through videos and follow-on questions to prompt the learner to explore a situation and consider ways to best address it. Ethical Snapshots can be used in your organization as emails to your employees, on video monitors in high-traffic areas or during instructor/manager-led training. View More Ethical Snapshots

Third-Party Vendors: Great Value with Great Risk

Your business must move quickly to evaluate opportunities, enter markets, develop products, ramp up sales, respond to customer needs and complaints, and a host of other challenges that make the difference between success and failure.

Leveraging third-party partners, such as suppliers, contractors, consultants, agents, distributors, representatives, and other parties, is now more important than ever for a business is to move grow rapidly and confidently in today’s fast-paced world.

 

What would you do?

These third-party partnerships can create both the potential for great value and chance of great risk. What would you do in the following situations?

  • A vendor with lax information security controls led to significant personal data disclosures of customers and the customers’ end-consumers
  • An agent you have recruited to seek business from foreign governments on your behalf is engaging in bribery.
  • You receive shoddy or defective parts from your subcontractors or found unsafe components or raw materials built into products for end-consumers.
  • As an exporter you discover that partners violating international trade requirements.

There are a multitude of scenarios that your employees, in various roles in your company, could encounter when working with third-party vendors and these can put your organization in a great deal of risk.

 

What could happen?

While your company may not be the source of the problem in the above scenarios, it is still going to bear the brunt of the fallout which can result in:

  • Failure to meet your obligations to customers
  • Inability to meet expectations to stakeholders
  • Damage to your company’s reputation for integrity
  • Suspension, restrictions or debarment from certain opportunities

 

What should you be doing?

As a company, you should be addressing the specific challenges in relationships with suppliers, contractors, agents, representatives, distributors, and other partners and educating all employees throughout an organization that work directly or indirectly with third parties to be educated on these relationships.

Such training would be particularly valuable to:

  • Leadership charged with building and maintaining relationships with third parties
  • Sales staff who work with agents, representatives, and distributors
  • Procurement or purchasing staff who work closely with third parties
  • Operations staff who interact regularly with third parties
  • Functional staff who manage contractors and consultants
  • International trade staff who work with agents, brokers, and similar partners

These partnerships can create both the potential for great value and chance of great risk in maintaining an ethical reputation. In order to safeguard against potential problems, companies need to develop more sophisticated ways to evaluate, establish, and maintain third-party relationships to protect from unanticipated risk and, in turn, help them best achieve their goals from the relationship.

EEOC Releases Preliminary Findings on Fiscal Year 2018 Charge Statistics

Those of us that have an interest in the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) charge and litigation statistics eagerly await the release of new data toward the beginning of each calendar year. Perhaps never has a fiscal year’s statistics been more eagerly anticipated than that of fiscal 2018. As you are undoubtedly aware, the latter half of 2017 was the advent of the #MeToo movement, which sparked awareness about sexual harassment and sexual assault both in the workplace and out. It just so happens that July 2017 marked the beginning of fiscal 2018, which means the upcoming release of statistics gives us our first glimpse into what the post #MeToo EEOC statistics will look like.

Perhaps never has a fiscal year’s statistics been more eagerly anticipated than that of fiscal 2018

Like a trailer for an upcoming Hollywood movie (which is ironic because Hollywood was where the #MeToo fire was lit), today the EEOC released some of its preliminary findings on its charge enforcement during fiscal 2018. As expected, the results are staggering. It is important to note that the EEOC did not release the 2018 data in the traditional form of updating a chart of charges. Instead, it included the preliminary data in a news release entitled “What You Should Know: EEOC Leads the Way in Preventing Workplace Harassment.” Within this document was contained the data we have all been waiting for (or at least important pieces).

The EEOC investigated at least 800 more sexual harassment charges since the advent of the #MeToo movement

While touting its efforts to “vigorously combat workplace harassment” the EEOC casually mentioned, “[c]harges filed with the EEOC alleging sexual harassment increased by more than 12 percent from fiscal year 2017.” Given we know that there were 6,696 sexual harassment based charges filed in fiscal 2017, the reported increase translates to at least 7,499 charges filed in 2018. Alternatively stated, the EEOC investigated at least 800 more sexual harassment charges since the advent of the #MeToo movement. This is clearly significant.

The EEOC release also states two other significant findings. First, consistent with the EEOC’s statement that the agency would be filing more lawsuits on behalf of victims, the report states that the number of lawsuits indeed rose by 11 (a 50% increase). This is significant because it means the EEOC is investing key resources into prosecuting cases as well as investigating them, which spells a new type of trouble for employers of all sizes. The EEOC also reports that it recovered $70 million for victims of harassment through its enforcement and litigation procedures. This was up from $47.5 million in fiscal 2017.

The EEOC also reports that it recovered $70 million for victims of harassment through its enforcement and litigation procedures.

The significance of this document cannot be understated, not just in the shocking increase in numbers, but also the EEOC’s new method of promoting its efforts to investigate, stop, and punish those employers who allow incidents to occur. It will not only be interesting to see if 2018 is an outlier (or more likely) the start of a trend. In either event, employers should be more interested than ever in making sure their employees receive the proper training to prevent incidents of sexual harassment 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 California Sexual Harassment Training Law Approved by Governor Brown

On October 1, 2018 California Governor Jerry Brown signed into law SB 1343, which amends the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (“FEHA”) to require non-managerial employees to receive bi-annual training on the prevention of sexual harassment, gender identity issues and the prevention of abusive conduct in the workplace by January 1, 2020 (or within six months of assuming their position).

On October 1, 2018 California Governor Jerry Brown signed into law SB 1343 

Although this sweeping change is sure to be burdensome for employers, organizations can rest somewhat easier on the grounds that the required training for non-managerial employees will only be one hour in duration (as opposed to the two hour requirement currently in place). Please take note that managers and supervisors will still be required to receive bi-annual sexual harassment training as has been the case in the past.

The new requirement is part of a series of sweeping changes to California’s FEHA 

The new requirement is part of a series of sweeping changes to California’s FEHA, that are in accord with changes that went into effect in New York and other states. The new training requirements are just one component of those laws.

In response to these changes Syntrio is well prepared to offer your employees both industry-leading sexual harassment training for California managers and a one-hour course that covers the needs of non-managerial employees. In the coming months we will be rolling out a completely refreshed California non-manager course that will truly set the standard for interactive online training in this industry.

Contact Syntrio to schedule a demonstration of our California courseware.

Syntrio invites you to contact us to schedule a demonstration of our California (and other state) courseware with one of our representatives at your earliest convenience. It is never too early to get a head start on fulfilling your requirement for California training, especially given the California legislature’s comment that those employees who receive training by January 1, 2019 will not have to re-train when at the January 2020 deadline!

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.


Does Your Harassment Training Need a Makeover?

The #MeToo movement grew exponentially due to the availability of the internet as an avenue for victims of harassment to express their protest of bad acts and actors in the workplace. Like any internet phenomenon, the movement has spawned a backlash against training programs provided to employees (and perceptions about the reasons training is actually given). It wouldn’t be the internet without a daily article about why training is ineffective or a “top six reasons why your harassment training will fail” garnering retweets, likes and links in internet generated blog posts (like this one).

While the general consensus that harassment training as currently constructed has some truth, and the motivations behind spending millions of dollars on training can rightfully be questioned, where the criticism articles go wrong is their failure to emphasize the approach taken by online and live training providers as opposed to highlighting the “boring” and “thoughtless” approach taken by many lawyers and internet training providers tasked with providing one and two hour trainings for groups of managers and employees.

Where we differ from other industry providers is in our unique approach 

Syntrio prides itself on taking the criticism of the e-learning industry to heart and implementing changes in our products in response to changes in the times and tastes of employees across all industries. Where we differ from other industry providers is in our unique approach aimed at resonating with the user to change his or her behavior regardless of illegality as a means of actually preventing incidents.

As the Think Progress article linked above eloquently states, all too many training providers are focused on long lessons in black-letter law while failing to illustrate the practical implications of bad workplace behavior. Indeed, there is more to cultural change than knowing what is “illegal,” rather employees need to be instructed on how civility in the workplace can improve the overall experience for one another.

Improving workplace culture to a level of total inclusiveness

Syntrio’s video and text-based scenarios illustrate more than just the fine legal points of harassment law. Indeed, our training programs are aimed at changing or improving workplace culture to a level of far more than tolerance, but to a level of total inclusiveness. By doing so, employees feel comfortable reporting any and all perceived misconduct, not just potentially illegal misconduct. This approach makes the workplace a better place to spend time and in turn, a safer place to do so as well.

We invite you a demonstration of our approach to learning, from full-scale training programs to micro-learning courses to very brief ethical snapshots, we know you will have a refreshed look at what training can be when it goes beyond a law school lecture and into a tactical discussion on improving workplace culture.


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