The Elephant in the Workplace: What to do When Ethical Issues Arise

The day will undoubtedly come when one of your employees comes forward with an ethical complaint or you will face a dilemma as to whether report an ethical question to upper management. Thoughts of fear will rush through your brain as you consider how to handle the problem, whether dealing with a complaint or reporting an inaccuracy of your own. Without the proper background and framework for how to deal with these situations, some go unreported; worse yet, you may make statements to an employee that are actually retaliatory, and expose the company to even further liability if the employee files a lawsuit. Sound scary? It doesn't have to be.

Dealing with a Complaint

Syntrio’s ethics and code of conduct courses train managers on how to properly report and deal with complaints of ethical violations in the workplace. By instilling confidence in managers as to what constitutes an actual ethics violation, the nuances of dilemmas that will come up in the workplace become clearer, and therefore reporting potential violations becomes less of a mystery.

Remember, ethics is about doing the “right” thing. This can have multiple meanings in different situations. For example, if an employee complains that a co-worker is stealing customer data, the right decision is obvious (you investigate the situation and report the conduct immediately). However, many ethical dilemmas stem from employee complaints that are subtler.

In these situations you need to weigh the utility of reporting the potential violation with the harm it may do the company. For example, if an employee reports to you that his or her co-worker is talking to clients in a rude manner on the telephone you may investigate the situation, but if it is a minor inconvenience it is probably not worth more than having a conversation with the employee about what you have overheard and dealing with it at the micro level.

Dealing with an Ethical Dilemma

Our courses also teach management how to deal with actual ethical dilemmas that arise within the course of their duties. For example, if you determine that the company’s books are inaccurate, how do you deal with reporting the unethical conduct while handling the fear of retaliation? Although the answers are sometimes complicated, we present real-life scenarios to your managers that reduce the mystery and provide you the framework for ethical decision-making.

Getting it Right Requires Training

The aforementioned examples show common ethical dilemmas that come up in the workplace and common questions that arise with respect to reporting unethical conduct managers either hear about or discover on their own. Syntrio is committed to helping companies of all sizes commit to the utmost ethical standards in all aspects of conducting their business, and therefore provides cost-effective ethics and code of conduct training courses that are cognizant of the value of time to modern companies. Contact for more information about our ethics compliance courses and remember to follow us on Twitter, Google Plus and LinkedIn for daily updates on employment law and compliance that impact your business!


Maintaining Strict Adherence to Ethics and Code of Conduct Policies Should be at the Forefront of Business Priority

Ethics can be a dirty word for executives and management employees. Although all businesses like to think that they remain in compliance with a code of conduct, the term itself often connotes trouble or a sign of rough water ahead. In reality, many businesses maintain an ideal of staying at the forefront of business ethics and compliance, yet are unsure how to chart and maintain the proper course. Is it a simple code of conduct? Is it simply following the law? All of these are questions you have probably asked yourself if you are a business owner, executive, or upper-level management employee.

A recent Berkshire Hathaway memorandum from Warren Buffett explored these exact questions. Its contents bring up several salient points that can be applied to any business, large or small, that is seeking to maintain or improve its ethical reputation within the business community at large.

Buffett wrote his December 19, 2014 memorandum to his team of managers. He starts off by clearly stating that Berkshire Hathaway’s priority number 1 “trumping everything else – including profits” is “zealously guarding Berkshire’s reputation.” This is sound advice from one of the most revered businessmen in America. After all, once a business loses its reputation what does it have left? Indeed, protecting company reputations through business ethics courses is our job at Syntrio. Like Buffet, we believe that a business can flourish when it makes ethical principles of operation a high priority.

Buffett goes on to state two more key points that are fundamental aspects of ethical compliance. First, he asks that his managers refrain from doing anything that even calls into question the legality of an act. Buffett’s memo states that if a business action requires the manager to question whether it is ethical it should not be done, despite the impact on profits. While sometimes-difficult decisions need to be made, in general the “eye test” is a good one to rely on when making business decisions. All too frequently business owners and executives are seduced by the allure of high profits and the bottom line, and decisions they make lead to both legal and reputation trouble immediately.

Finally, Buffett writes about the need for trust in succession. A business owner or executive in charge must be aware of the candidates to carry on the business legacy and reputation. By properly training managers in the company code of conduct you can foster a legacy and reputation for high standards of ethics that will filter down from top to bottom. Again, this is where Syntrio can help. With years of experience training managers on adhering to ethical standards of conduct we are positioned to effectively implement a strategy that not only educates your managers on ethical behavior, we can also implement any shifts or changes in philosophy that you see fit by tailoring the courses to your needs.

Syntrio understands the need to balance costs with employee morale and ethical behavior. Therefore, we can help train your managers on the nuances of corporate ethics that will not only keep you compliant with the law, but will foster a positive reputation within the community as recommended by Warren Buffett in his memo. Contact Syntrio for more information and remember to follow us on Twitter, Google Plus and LinkedIn for daily updates on employment law and compliance that impact your business!


Parental Leave Doesn’t Have to be Scary for Employers

When an employee announces to HR that he or she will be taking FMLA leave in the near future to care for the birth or adoption of a new member of the family the first thing that goes through the minds of management is fear. Managers realize that a key employee will be missing for several weeks while the employer is left to keep his or her job open the entire time. Clearly this is a daunting proposition for companies large and small, but with proper training the entire experience can be handled without stress and with clear compliance. If done correctly, paternity or maternity leave can be an experience that rewards the employer with a motivated and thankful employee when he or she returns.

The first element of FMLA training is a background on the law. Although this article will not bore you with the complicated nuances of the statute, the basic proposition is that new parents are entitled to take up to 12 workweeks in a twelve month period to care for the birth or adoption of a newborn or newly adopted child. This is roughly three months out of the year that will need to be accounted for while the employee’s job is held open. By having a background on the fundamentals of the law, properly trained managers are able to satisfy the most important element of a successful parental leave experience: planning.

When you run a company with more than 50 employees you are bound to face a situation at some point where an employee needs to take FMLA leave. Therefore, it is wise to have a plan in place to fill the duties of each position covered by leave during the time they are gone. Although it may require the summoning of a temporary employee or a reshuffling of job responsibilities, if the plan is in place it will be executed seamlessly, and the employee will be able to take his or her leave comfortably and without worry that they are leaving the employer in a bind.

A second critical element of FMLA training is teaching management how to effectively communicate with the employee going on leave in a clear, concise, and non-discriminatory fashion. Certain things that seem natural to say can actually expose the employer to liability. Therefore, it is critical that managers know what must be communicated to the employee before and during his or her leave and what contact is prohibited. Further, effective communication increases morale and makes the pregnancy leave that much more positive an experience.

Finally, uniformity in application of policies is a key facet of FMLA training. When one employee goes out on leave and is harassed or subjected to some kind of misconduct while compliance with the law is maintained in another situation there can be significant exposure for the company. Clearly it is important to establish a policy for how things are to be handled when an employee is on leave, and the policy and its application must be carried out with uniformity.

Each of these tips will help you maintain practical compliance with the FMLA, but we highly recommend contacting Syntrio, Inc. for focused training on the FMLA and avoiding claims of pregnancy discrimination. Contact Syntrio for more information and remember to follow us on Twitter, Google Plus and LinkedIn for daily updates on employment law and compliance that impact your business!


Amazon Supreme Court Victory Highlights the Need for HR Ethics Online Courses

Last month the United States Supreme Court held that employees working at Amazon shipping facilities did not have to be compensated for time spent in post-shift security checks. Essentially, Supreme Court Justices said that extra time spent in the security checkpoints was unrelated to the employees’ job duties, and therefore was non-compensable under the Portal-to-Portal Act. The December 2014 decision is seen as a widespread victory for employers in the wage and hour war. Good news? Maybe not.

According to the opinion, employees at the Amazon facility were forced to spend approximately 25 minutes in the security checkpoints at issue. When these individuals submitted the time to the staffing company who brought them to Amazon they were not compensated. Understandably, the unpaid time sitting in a line frustrated a group of the employees, and they ultimately brought a lawsuit. Although management had success in the courtroom, lawsuits like these can cause company reputations to take a hit, and make them less attractive places for talented employees to work from top to bottom.

Granted, this case was seen as having the potential to spur billions of dollars of back pay across several companies facing similar lawsuits and is an economic victory for employers. However, it is necessary to understand how the ethics behind such policies impact employee morale and business as a whole. First, work-life balance is disrupted when employees are forced to perform duties at work “off the clock.” For example, if an employee is forced to sit 25 minutes in a security line while her family is waiting at home with dinner on the table there is going to be some understandable frustration.

Furthermore, policies that cause ethical outrage and simply “seem” wrong (despite the legality) demonstrate a management style that is untrustworthy and unethical. For example, if employees can’t trust their employer to pay them for time spent at work, how can they be sure that management is not engaged in other workplace misconduct like discrimination and harassment? All of this leads employees to be more litigious and more likely to file suspect complaints and frivolous lawsuits as a means of getting back at the employer.

When managers are properly trained in ethical practices they are far more likely to have the psychological understanding of the bases for employee complaints, and are far more likely to make and implement sound policies that consider the interests of all of the employees at the forefront, thereby keeping morale high and the risk of frivolous charges low. When you try and save money by cutting employee pay (regardless of whether you are legally “right” or not) you are very likely to end up losing in the long run.

Syntrio understands the need to balance costs with employee morale and ethical behavior. Therefore, we can help train your managers on the nuances of the law that will help formulate effective policies that keep you compliant with the law, and at the forefront of business ethics.  

Contact Syntrio for more information and remember to follow us on Twitter, Google Plus and LinkedIn for daily updates on employment law and compliance that impact your business!