April is Workplace Violence Prevention Month: Educate Your Workforce

Incidents of workplace violence are serious threats to the safety of employees in companies of all sizes. In 2014, (the most recent available data), the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported over 30,000 incidents of violence in the workplace in the United States. This is simply too high a number.  You may feel as though your business is safe, and that you would not hire the type of employees who could commit a horrific act. Sadly, the reality is that workplace violence can occur anywhere and at any time, and steps must be taken in companies of all sizes to minimize the chance that something terrible could happen.

Workplace violence manifests in a variety of forms. Every year, millions of United States employees are physically or verbally abused at their place of employment. These incidents of bullying and abusive conduct often lead to significant retaliatory violent acts that can have a devastating impact on business and people’s lives. In addition to the impact on human life and security, the estimated annual cost of workplace violence to American businesses exceeds $36 billion.

Workplace Violence is Preventable

The Alliance Against Workplace Violence (“AAWV”) is an organization dedicated to the prevention of hostile acts at work. In 2011, AAWV declared the month of April “Workplace Violence Prevention” month.  Syntrio is committed to furthering AAWV’s message and has developed a detailed online training course designed to help your managers and employees understand what workplace violence is, how to recognize and diffuse potentially violent situations, and most importantly, how to prevent incidents of workplace violence.

Workplace violence cannot be prevented unless an open-door culture of understanding and encouragement of reporting is fostered. This can only happen when a workforce is fully educated about the dangers of abusive conduct and violent acts in the workplace.  Our course is designed to not only educate employees and managers about these dangers but also how to report and discuss these issues with management and co-workers with an aim at preventing these incidents before they rise to the level of physical (or psychological) violence.

Important topics covered in Syntrio’s Preventing Workplace Violence course include (but are by no means limited to) 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 incidents of workplace violence.
  • Steps to protect you and others.
  • How to respond appropriately to threatening or violent situations

Syntrio is committed to helping businesses avoid costly incidents associated with violent acts 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 Preventing Workplace Violence 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!

 

 

 

Healthy Workplace Laws: Get Ahead of the Curve

State legislatures around the country are contemplating (or have already enacted) legislation to curb the alarming amount of workplace bullying taking place in both public and private sector places of employment. While your state may not yet have taken steps to eliminate this harmful activity, you can be assured that the time is coming, and your business needs to do something about it. With that in mind, below is some background and statistics on workplace bullying, and how it can be avoided.

What is Workplace Bullying, and how is it Defined?

California recently answered this question for employers when it enacted Assembly Bill 2053, which amended the California law requiring bi-annual sexual harassment training to include a requirement that employers provide training on “abusive conduct.” The California law defines “abusive conduct” as follows:

[A]busive conduct means conduct of an employer or employee in the workplace, with malice, that a reasonable person would find hostile, offensive, and unrelated to an employer’s legitimate business interests.

The California law sets out several examples of abusive conduct including:

• Repeated infliction of verbal abuse
• The use of insults and epithets
• Threats
• Verbal or physical conduct that a reasonable person would find threatening
• Gratuitous sabotage or undermining of a person’s work performance

In summary, in California (and soon across the country) it will likely be illegal to fail to treat co-workers or subordinates with the respect they deserve. While this may sound simple, the statistics are alarming.

Recent Survey Shows Majority of Employees Concerned with Workplace Bullying

According to a 2014 National Survey conducted by the Workplace Bullying Institute, 27 percent of U.S. employees reported that they had experienced abusive conduct at work and 21% of U.S. employees claim they have witnessed abusive conduct of others at work. These numbers are simply too high, and evidence the legislative trend toward outlawing abusive conduct in the workplace across the country.

The 2014 survey also revealed most employees do not think that their employers do enough to address workplace bullying. Indeed, 25% of employees’ surveyed responded that employers deny bullying and harassing conduct takes place and fail to investigate complaints. Further, 16% responded employers discount bullying or describe it as non-serious, and another 15% responded that employers rationalize it by describing the bullying as innocent.

Perhaps most glaring, only 12% of employees’ surveyed found their employers took steps to eliminate bullying by creating policies and procedures and training employees on how to identify and prevent abusive conduct. Given the legislative trend toward requiring training to combat abusive conduct in the workplace it makes sense to get a jump on things by training managers and employees to treat each other with dignity and respect.

Syntrio’s Online Courses on the Prevention of Abusive Conduct are a Simple Solution for Businesses of all Sizes

Syntrio understands that managers and employees are busy. Nevertheless, it is extremely important to conduct online training to prevent workplace bullying not only to comply with the law, but also to protect your company reputation. More and more employees are claiming different types of harassment when they depart a company, and now with new “Healthy Workplace” anti-bullying legislation going into effect they have a new weapon in the fight against employer misconduct.

Syntrio is committed to helping businesses prevent bullying from occurring within their offices, yet also with assisting businesses in complying with their legal obligation to train employees on the prevention of abusive conduct.  Contact  www.syntrio.com 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 organization!

 

Workplace Violence is Real and Coming to an Office Near You If You Don’t Take Preventative Measures

April 2015 is Workplace Violence Awareness Month. Although it is sad that we even have to type those words, the reality is we live in a dangerous time where the threat of an individual coming into the office with a gun and attacking innocent victims is all too real. Between 2006 and 2010 3,000 people were victims of workplace homicides in the United States. Clearly this is an issue that needs attention both from a simple workplace safety perspective and from a liability perspective.

Threats of Workplace Violence Cause a Stressful Environment

They typical workplace violence scenario does not end in gunfire, but is nevertheless stressful for everyone involved. Most commonly, a disgruntled employee or ex-employee makes a threat of violence towards a supervisor, manager, or generally on the office he or she works or worked at. While the vast majority of these threats are never carried out, they set in motion a chain of events that ends in the office seeking and obtaining a civil harassment restraining order against the individual who made the threat. This process is expensive and time-consuming yet absolutely necessary to protect the office from liability in the event the individual comes into the office guns blazing.

In addition to the legal process that must be initiated, employees must be notified that a threat has occurred, leading to serious emotional toll on the office as a whole. This can often mean employees out on stress-related leave and a total loss of productivity from a threat of workplace violence. Sadly, this is the best-case scenario. If an employee actually commits an act of violence in the office the aftermath is far worse. With that in mind, how can the risk of workplace violence be reduced?

Workplace Violence Training Programs Mitigate the Risk of Dangerous Acts

The problem of workplace violence is an outgrowth of the bullying and psychological turmoil faced by some individuals both at home and at work. Therefore, by training employees on the value of diversity in thought and fostering a culture that frowns on negative treatment toward employees, you can implement a preventative strategy whereby employees know they can come to upper management for help before things get out of control.

Although such a strategy does not eliminate the risk of a rogue employee committing a violent act or threat thereof, you can at least be confident that by training managers on anti-bullying and diversity that you have fostered a workplace culture that will not tolerate the types of behavior most likely to lead an employee to threaten or commit an act of workplace violence. Indeed, it is the culture that can prevent these acts from happening.

Syntrio is committed to helping businesses prevent horrific acts of violence from taking place within their offices. Contact www.syntrio.com for more information about our workplace violence prevention courses and remember to follow us on TwitterGoogle Plus and LinkedIn for daily updates on employment law and compliance issues that may impact your business!

California Legislation Affecting Employment Law in 2015: A New Year Brings New Challenges for Employers

In the fall of 2014 California Governor Jerry Brown signed several new laws into law that will go into effect on January 1, 2015. Many of these laws directly and/or indirectly impact employment law in the State. The following paragraphs provide a brief primer on the new legislation and how each impacts management. As always, Syntrio provides detailed management and employee training, and can assist your business in complying with all state and federal employment laws.

Assembly Bill 2053 – California’s Anti-Bullying Law

Assembly Bill (“AB”) 2053, adds a new educational requirement to the existing training required by Assembly Bill 1825 (commonly known as California’s Harassment Training Law). As you are most likely aware, California employers with 50 or more employees are required to conduct at least two hours of sexual harassment training for supervisors once every two years. AB 2053 requires employers who are subject to the sexual harassment law to continue complying with the requirements of the law, but must also “include prevention of abusive conduct as a component of the training and education . . .” Under the new California law, managers and supervisors must be trained to recognize and prevent abusive behavior in the workplace.

What is “abusive” conduct?

AB 2053 defines “abusive conduct” as “conduct of an employer or employee in the workplace, with malice, that a reasonable person would find hostile, offensive, and unrelated to an employer’s legitimate business interests.” According to the law, abusive conduct may include repeated verbal abuse, such as the use of derogatory remarks and insults; or physical conduct that a reasonable person would find threatening, intimidating, or humiliating. Important to note, the law states that a single act does not constitute abusive conduct, unless the isolated incident was “especially severe and egregious.”

Does AB 2053 Create a New Cause of Action for Bullying in the Workplace?

Nothing in the new law outlaws abusive conduct in the workplace. However, from an employee morale perspective this type of behavior can have a negative impact on employee productivity and is therefore discouraged. Further, it is impossible to predict what further amendments will take place in the coming months and years with respect to outlawing bullying in the workplace. It is safe to say that AB 2053 could be a precursor to such legislation in California.

Assembly Bill 1443 – Prohibiting Discrimination Against Unpaid Interns

The days of “taking it out on the intern” are over, as AB 1443 goes into effect on January 1, 2015. This law amends the Fair Employment and Housing Act (“FEHA”), and prohibits employers from discriminating against individuals in protected classes with respect to the “selection, termination, training or other terms” for unpaid internships. AB 1443 also prohibits employers from harassing unpaid interns (sexually or otherwise) and makes employers liable for harassment of unpaid interns by non-employees if an employer knew or should have known of the conduct but failed to take corrective action.

AB 1443 also prohibits employers from taking adverse action against unpaid interns based on religious beliefs, and employers must provide reasonable accommodation for religious observance unless doing so would pose an undue hardship. In short, the new law requires employers to treat unpaid interns as employees for the purposes of discrimination and harassment. Unrelated to this law, but still extremely important are the many wage and hour issues that can arise from having unpaid interns working at your business. It is a practice that is ripe for litigation, and AB 1443 only adds causes of action to an already popular category of individual for employment litigation.

AB 1660 Requires California Employers to Be Careful With Assumptions About Current and Prospective Employees

AB 1660 amends the FEHA to prohibit discrimination against an employee who presents a driver license issued to them under AB 60, which allows illegal immigrants to obtain a driver license even though the individual does not have the legal right to work in the United States.

Although this law is in direct conflict with employer obligations under the Federal Immigration law, it essentially means that although individuals must have the right to work in the US, they cannot be singled out at the application or hiring process and employers cannot assume they do not have the right to work in the US just because they have one of these driver’s licenses. Therefore, California employers must be especially careful when interviewing or hiring or in any situation in which a current or prospective employee may need to show the employer his or her driver’s license.

AB 1792 Prohibits Discrimination Based on Employee Receipt of State Funds

AB 1792 prohibits discrimination and retaliation against employees who are recipients of public assistance, specifically the Medi-Cal program. This portion of AB 1792 is a direct reaction to another provision in the bill that requires state agencies to prepare and publish a list of the 500 top employers with the most Medi-Cal recipients (“employer” defined as having 100 or more employees on Medi-Cal). Because the state is afraid that employers will select individuals for layoff or termination to avoid making this list they have included Medi-Cal recipients as protected individuals under state law.

SB 967 – California’s “Yes Means Yes” Law

SB 967 amends the California Education Code to require schools receiving state funds to uphold an affirmative consent standard in disciplinary hearings and to educate students about the standard. This new law attempts to reduce the gray area in sexually violent crimes in an effort to reduce such misconduct from occurring.

Under SB 967, consent is to be defined as “affirmative, unambiguous, and conscious decision by each participant to engage in mutually agreed-upon sexual activity.” Further, the law requires affirmative training of both students and faculty about affirmative consent, including all incoming students as part of orientation. Institutions that receive state funding will need to begin conducting training under this law, and should do so in conjunction with requirements set forth by the Campus SaVE Act, which went into effect in Fall 2014.

Syntrio, Inc. specializes in providing Ethics and HR compliance training. Contact us today at 888-289-6670 for a discussion on how we can help you and your business. Additionally, for regular updates on HR and ethics issues that may impact your business, follow Syntrio on Twitter, Google Plus and LinkedIn.

Biting Back at the Bullies: Effective Training Can Reduce Bullying and Harassment in the Workplace

Bullies are everywhere. Certain people take joy and pleasure in making miserable the lives of those they perceive as “weak” or easy targets for taking out their personal frustrations. Workplace bullying is a growing yet preventable phenomenon that can take a variety of forms. It is important to note that workplace bullying can be considered a form of actionable workplace harassment when the activity comes from a supervisor (or co-worker behavior is reported and management does not effectively quash the behavior) and creates a hostile working environment.   

Allowing a bullying culture to continue at your business is not only counterproductive, it can lead to significant legal fees when an employee decides to file a harassment or retaliation lawsuit. Therefore, effective bully prevention training is a cost-effective method to reduce the potential for exposure to the types of legal and financial consequences your business may be exposed to if such practices are allowed to continue.   

Supervisors Often Bully Their Subordinate Employees Without Knowing It 

Perhaps the most common form of workplace bullying is the “hothead” supervisor who takes out his professional and personal frustrations on the employees he is assigned to manage.  In the classic cases the supervisor feels as though he has to “break down” his staff in order to “build them up,” or simply feels that the “tough love” seen in professional sports leagues is the only effective way to manage. As seen in the recent NFL Miami Dolphins scandal involving a group of senior players accused of bullying a more junior offensive lineman, this strategy is ineffective in the modern workplace, and leads to legal trouble. 

2014 Study Shows Workplace Bullying is Pervasive 

A recent study showed that 27% of American employees have been subjected to bullying, with a majority of the alleged bullying by a supervisor. Additionally, 21% of American employees have witnessed an incident of workplace bullying. Finally, the study revealed that 82% of workplace bullying victims wound up losing their job, either by voluntary or involuntary termination. That number is simply too high, and presents too significant a business risk for owners to allow a bullying culture to take place.   

Employers have a responsibility to eliminate workplace bullying and workplace harassment. Additionally, when an employee reports an incident of bullying or harassment and the employer either does nothing about the incident, or worse, takes an adverse action against the employee, he or she may have a claim for retaliation or other common law business torts. By allowing these unlawful practices to flourish in the workplace, employers pay the high price of litigation costs in addition to low morale, decreased productivity, and an overall negative reputation in the community. Further, modern employers understand that not only are they able to avoid employee lawsuits, they also gain a more productive overall workforce when their businesses are free from hostile environments. In short, effective anti-harassment and anti-bullying training is a prudent business decision. 

Cost-Effective Electronic Methods of Workplace Harassment and Anti-Bullying Training Can Save Costs and Increase Employee Productivity 

With the advent of e-learning and online compliance training, developing anti-harassment and anti-bullying policies that has become easier and more cost-effective than ever. Certified training companies like Syntrio, Inc. provide training courses and materials with respect to workplace harassment, workplace bullying, and retaliation prevention methods.  

Syntrio, Inc. specializes in providing anti-harassment business ethics and HR compliance training in an extremely comprehensive yet cost-effective and time sensitive manner.  Contact us today at 888-289-6670 to discuss the ways Syntrio, Inc. can help your supervisors and HR professionals ensure that they are up to date with state and federal laws regarding equality and workplace diversity training.