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!

 

 

 

Workplace Compliance About More than Just Following the Rules

Companies pay their lawyers a lot of money to draft policies prohibiting harassment, discrimination, and other illegal workplace activities and create codes governing workplace conduct. These practices are obviously essential to legal and ethical compliance, but those companies and organizations that are truly at the forefront of maintaining a positive corporate culture and avoiding litigation and negative press are doing more. Indeed, those companies are launching full-scale compliance training programs and are providing an opportunity for their employees to report incidents of suspected unethical or illegal acts anonymously.

Policies and Rules Insufficient to Maintaining a Positive Corporate Culture

While a policy or code of conduct can provide managers and other employees a path to avoid wrongdoing, those documents are often filled with blanket statements like “[t]his company has a strong policy against illegal discrimination of any kind” or “[e]mployees are encouraged to report all incidents of misconduct immediately.” This is a good start, but many managers and employees do not come into their jobs with knowledge on the nuances of discrimination and harassment laws. Further, a policy encouraging reporting of incidents may have been in place long before a manager or employee witnessing an unethical or illegal act may have started his or her job.

Creating an ethical and legally compliant workforce is often a majority response when executives are surveyed on what changes or maintenance they would like to see within their workforce. However, simply creating the rules is not enough. In order to create a true culture of integrity and management within the law it is important to train supervisors and employees on the nuances of ethical dilemmas and tricky legal situations that undoubtedly will come up within their career. It is also insufficient to conduct these training sessions just once.

Syntrio’s Services Foster a Culture of Compliance

Syntrio has developed a vast Learning Management System filled with online ethics and compliance training courses on virtually all topics relevant to management and workplace legal compliance. Clients are able to license as much or as little of Syntrio’s content as they wish, and Syntrio is even able to customize courses to suit the needs of a particular company, campus, or government agency. Additionally, Syntrio has remained at the forefront of the industry by partnering with Lighthouse Services to soon release an Anonymous Hotline Service, which will provide employees the opportunity to report incidents of misconduct anonymously, without any fear of repercussion from the company.

All of the above contributes to a “speak-up” culture within the corporate environment that provides employees with a workplace where they are educated and informed enough to make the “right” [ethical and legal] decisions but know they can report incidents they witness without worrying about retaliation from the company. Indeed, the sum is more than its parts. It is proven that educating employees and providing a forum to report incidents will lessen the likelihood of litigation. It is also likely that such an environment will lead to happier employees overall.

Syntrio is committed to helping businesses avoid the costly mistakes associated with ethics and employment law violations. 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 compliance 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! Finally, stay tuned for more information about the release of our Anonymous Hotline Service!

Contact Syntrio for more information about our prevention of disability discrimination in the workplace courses for management and remember to follow us on Twitter, Google Plus and LinkedIn for daily updates on compliance issues that may impact your business!

 

Missouri House of Representatives Receives Sexual Harassment Training

In January 2016 all members of the Missouri House of Representatives attended a live training session aimed at reducing the number of sexual harassment scandals appearing on the evening news. Indeed, the mandatory training was scheduled in response to the recent resignations of the former Missouri Speaker of the House and a State senator, both of whom resigned amid allegations of inappropriate behavior with college-aged interns in recent years.

In response to the scandals, the state legislative body approved a plan to have all members and their staff attend two training sessions. In addition to the training sessions, lawmakers will now have a new complaint system whereby employees working with the House of Representatives will easier be able to lodge complaints of sexual harassment which will be heard by an independent ombudsman.

As part of the training overhaul, the online training system in place for incoming senators will be expanded, and will include new rules for dealing with members of the State’s intern program, which draws interns from public universities for the four and one half month legislative session.

Under the new training program, legislators will be given a lengthy list of acceptable and unacceptable behavior, including behavior to avoid such as sexual comments, innuendos, or suggestive comments about body image, choice of clothes, or sexual activity. Importantly, the training will cover electronic based harassment such as text messages and voice mails to co-workers.

Sexual Harassment Training Can Reduce the Number of Claims

When asked about the new training regimen the current House Speaker mentioned “there is no rule or law that can make our imperfect process perfect...” While this statement may be correct, Syntrio has years of expertise providing online sexual harassment training to companies and government agencies of all sizes. In our experience, those that receive the training are better prepared to make the proper decisions when faced with a situation where questionable conduct could arise.

California sexual harassment training is somewhat unique in that it is mandatory per statute (as is also the case in Maine and Connecticut). In those states where training is not mandatory it is very likely that some or all of the scandals that led to the recent reactive “rush to train” scenarios would never have occurred if proactive training were adopted by companies and government agencies. While the Missouri House Speaker is correct that it is impossible to prevent all incidents of sexual harassment, the evidence shows that sexual harassment training works as an educational deterrent to objectionable behavior.

Syntrio’s sexual harassment training courses use real life scenarios and calculated hypotheticals to teach the dangers of allowing harassment to persist at your company. By discussing real cases and developing vignettes based on reality your managers will not only learn the federal and state discrimination laws, they will see how they apply in the workplace. Indeed, our courses do not just teach the “black letter law,” they have true practical value for your managers and employees that many competing courses do not.

Syntrio is committed to helping businesses avoid the costly mistakes associated with sexual harassment. We are also able to custom-tailor our courses to fit the needs of your business. Contact Syntrio for more information about our employment discrimination courses for employees and management and remember to follow us on TwitterGoogle Plus and LinkedIn for daily updates on compliance issues that may impact your company!

 

HIV Discrimination Persistent in the Workplace

Last week actor Charlie Sheen revealed that he is HIV-positive and has known about his health status for the last several years. Immediately following Sheen’s disclosure came reports that previous intimate partners were lining up to pursue legal action against Sheen for allegedly infecting them with the disease. The recent press regarding Sheen’s situation brings to light the fact that HIV is still a frightening topic that is met with many misconceptions. Nowhere are these misconceptions and fears greater manifested than in the workplace, where after 30-plus years of HIV knowledge managers are still discriminating against HIV-positive employees, in violation of the law.

HIV and AIDS are qualifying disabilities under the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”). Therefore, employers are prohibited from making employment decisions on the basis of an employee’s HIV status, and are required to reasonably accommodate those employees who are in fact HIV positive. Although most employers are well aware of the law, many are still making mistakes that can lead to costly discrimination lawsuits.

New Lawsuit Evidences Lack of Progress

The most recent example of HIV discrimination comes from a Subway restaurant in Indianapolis. The EEOC recently prosecuted the Subway franchise for firing a man due to a “stereotype that people who are in the restaurant business are contagious and that people can contract HIV through food.” The lawsuit filed on the man’s behalf by the EEOC alleges that he was fired in violation of the ADA. The suit seeks back pay and punitive damages.

Recent polls have suggested that the general public is still wary of HIV and does not have the requisite knowledge to comment accurately on the subject of contagion and workplace risk. Undoubtedly, this lack of knowledge extends to management, and is a real discrimination risk in the workplace. Thankfully, training courses flesh out the confusing legal principles set forth in the ADA, and provide managers and employees with the knowledge required to make fair and neutral employment decisions no matter the disability in question.

Training Courses Carve the Path to ADA Compliance

The fundamentals outlined in Syntrio’s disability discrimination courses are custom tailored to the needs of your business and include real-life and hypothetical scenarios that teach your managers the nuances of the law that may not be readily apparent. Because the courses are designed in a cost-effective and time-sensitive manner your managers will receive the instruction they need to prevent disability discrimination while minimizing the time missed from work.

Syntrio is committed to helping employers avoid the costly mistakes (and associate litigation) that are associated with complicated areas of employment law. We are also able to custom-tailor our courses to fit the needs of your business.

Contact Syntrio for more information about our prevention of disability discrimination in the workplace courses for management and remember to follow us on Twitter, Google Plus and LinkedIn for daily updates on compliance issues that may impact your business!

 

Changing Overtime Exemption Could Cause Big Problems for Management

The United States Department of Labor has announced a proposal to amend the white-collar overtime exemption for executive, administrative, and professional employees to increase the salary threshold necessary to qualify for the exemption. Under the proposed rule, in 2016 the salary necessary to qualify for the exemption at the federal level would be $970 per week, and not less than $50,440 per year. This is in stark contrast with the current annual requirement of $23,660.

Importantly, to qualify for the exemptions, employees must also meet the job duties tests for the executive, administrative, professional (or other limited exceptions) which are also under review, and also potentially subject to changes by the end of the year. In the mean time, we can assume that the salary threshold for meeting the exemption will go up, which could have an extreme impact on some businesses and classes of employees.

Line Managers Suddenly May Require Overtime Payments

In one of the most devastating examples of how the new regulations may impact businesses, we examine the fast food industry. Currently there are shift managers who direct other employees and perform management duties but make low annual salaries. Presently, those employees are not necessarily required to receive overtime under the present salary threshold. However, when the regulations are amended those managers likely now will be required to receive time and a half payment for hours worked in excess of 40 and businesses will have the nightmare of accounting for which hours are spent performing management versus regular work.

Regular Wage and Hour Training Necessary for Upper Management

With the rapid changes in wage and hour regulations comes the need for strategic decisions on how to compensate employees who may now be subject to overtime payments. Thankfully, we are well prepared on the changes and ready to train your upper managers on the nuances of the new regulations, and how they may impact your employees and classes of managers. By scheduling training, your company can avoid the massive pitfalls and penalties brought on by violating the federal (and state) wage and hour laws.

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. Given the immense changes taking place in this area of the law combined with the extreme risk of class-action litigation, we feel that wage and hour training is essential to the modern business.

Syntrio is committed to reducing the number of wage and hour lawsuits filed in state and federal courts by facilitating compliance with state and federal laws and commitment to the utmost ethical standards in wage payment. Contact Syntrio 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 business!