The “Three Strikes” of Illegal Employer Action

Now that two full months have passed in calendar 2015 it is a good time to take a quick look at the most common forms of misconduct committed by employers. Indeed, employers are commonly making mistakes and violating laws in today’s workplace, and the only way to reduce these incidents is to keep the issues in the forefront. When managers can identify a problem before it gets out of hand, proper training and education can have he or she prepared with a solution.

Employers are Understanding that Litigation is a Sunk Cost

Fewer employees fear the perceived team of expensive defense attorneys and threats of retaliation if they complain about employer misconduct than in years past. As such, more employees are carrying out their threats of filing a lawsuit against their current or former employers. With that knowledge in mind, employers are beginning to see that fighting the problem on the back end using high priced attorneys is not the way to run a business. Instead, the common management pitfalls are ripe for training to proactively combat the problem, and many business owners are taking an offensive approach to employment law and human resources issues.

1. Discrimination

Discrimination claims are by far the most common form of employee lawsuit. Discrimination is when someone is treated less favorably (or more favorably in some cases) because of his or her membership in a protected class (i.e. race, sex, religion, etc.) There are longstanding federal and state laws prohibiting discrimination in the workplace, yet it persists as the most common form of employee charge today. Although employers are doing their best to eliminate bias in the workplace, certain prejudices persist among rogue managers, and therefore discrimination is a problem that is not going away.

2. Retaliation

Retaliation is a form of discrimination that occurs in conjunction with a discharge or other adverse employment action such as a demotion, pay decrease, lack of promotion or other disciplinary action and occurs as the result of an employee complaint or refusing to commit what he or she believes to be an illegal act (among other things). By learning how to properly handle employee complaints and requests to exercise statutory rights there is a great reduction in the risk that a retaliation claim will even be brought by a disgruntled employee.

3. Wage and Hour Violations

Unless your company employees all overtime exempt employees you are obligated under federal law to pay added compensation for employee hours worked in excess of forty in one week (there are also states that impose even stricter requirements on employers such as California). As you are also undoubtedly aware, the federal law requires payment of a minimum wage of at least $7.25 per hour (or higher in many states).

There are a significant number of traps that employers fall into with respect to the wage and hour laws, and managers are wise to learn the intricacies of federal and state wage and hour laws. Your employees certainly are brushing up on their internet research!

Syntrio is Available to Discuss Cost-Effective Training

The aforementioned topics merely scratch the surface of the three most common types of employee lawsuits. All companies can benefit from taking a proactive approach toward employment law issues, which is why Syntrio offers a robust LMS containing products that meet nearly every compliance need that can arise within a company or particular industry. Further, if something you need is currently unavailable, our team of experts will develop a course custom-tailored to suit your needs.

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!

 

Retaliation in the Workplace Can Leave Your Company an Employee Short and Thousands in the Red

In sports and on the playground it is most frequently the retaliating party that gets caught and is subject to discipline. For example, in the recently concluded Stanley Cup Playoffs a Chicago Blackhawks player felt he had his progress impeded and hit his counterpart on the other team in the mouth with his stick. Although the referee missed the initial infraction, he certainly saw the retaliatory high-stick, and sent the Blackhawks player to the penalty box for a five-minute major penalty.  While the Blackhawks player was in the box the opposing team scored the game-winning goal.

You may be wondering why we are discussing hockey in a business ethics and human resources compliance blog. Although many human resources managers and high-level executives understand the concept of coaching their players to refrain from retaliatory tactics in the workplace, a surprising number do not understand that taking adverse employment action against employees who complain about something they even think is illegal in the workplace can have a devastating effect on business.

 Federal and State Laws Prohibit Retaliation

Many federal statutes contain anti-retaliation provisions that prohibit employers from taking adverse employment action (discipline, termination, suspension, harassment) against employees who complain about the employer’s illegal activity.  Further, state and federal anti-discrimination laws include retaliation under the umbrella of prohibited activity when employees complain to management about activity they even suspect is discriminatory or otherwise illegal (even though it may not turn out to be so).

Retaliation Scandal Rocks the Veterans Administration

Employees at Veterans Administration (“VA”) facilities in 19 states have filed complaints alleging illegal retaliation by the VA for complaints about non-compliant scheduling and coding procedures (among other illegal practices). One such complaint stated that an employee was suspended for seven days, had a performance review lowered, and was reassigned just after filing a complaint. Other employees were subject to reassignment and demotion after complaining about alleged mishandling of patient funds, inappropriate use of patient restraints, and other violations of VA rules and procedures.

In addition to the legal ramifications of retaliating against employees for reporting unsafe or discriminatory workplace practices, allowing a retaliatory business culture will undoubtedly drain workplace productivity. Further, as discussed above, although you may feel that an employee is burdening the workforce with his or her complaints, you must remember that the employee has the right to do so and it is the employer who will be caught by the “referee” (judge and jury) and will ultimately be penalized, either by way of costly litigation defense, a large settlement, or public stigma from a large jury verdict.

Cost-Effective Electronic Methods of Workplace Business Ethics Training can Reduce the Possibility of Retaliatory Management Tactics and Increase Employee Productivity

Online compliance training for non-retaliation and other important ethics and employment-related topics is easier and more cost effective than ever. Training companies like Syntrio, Inc. provide high quality training courses .that can be customized to reflect organizational policies and priorities. Periodic training in lawful and non-discriminatory employment practices is an essential part of an effective ethics and compliance program and essential for defending against charges of discrimination and retaliation.

Syntrio, Inc. specializes in providing 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 retaliation prevention, non-discriminaton, and other business and employment practices.

 

4 Important Reasons to Prevent Workplace Retaliation

Most employment laws that guarantee rights to individual workers also make it illegal for employers to retaliate against employees who enforce their rights or support others in doing so. Still, reports show that more than 20% of employees who report unlawful conduct go on to experience some form of retaliation. Retaliation claims represent a significant legal and financial risk for employers and the following are some of the reasons why preventing retaliation should be a top workplace concern.

1. Most Commonly Laid Charge with Enforcement Agencies Such as EEOC.

In 2012, 38.1% of complaints filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) included charges of unlawful retaliation. That is greater than any other single protected ground including race (33.7%), sex (30.5%), disability (26.5%), and age (23.0%).

2. Broad (and Expanding) Scope of Anti-Retaliation Law… and Penalties for Violations 

Legislative and case developments have significantly broadened the scope of anti-retaliation protection, lowered the burden for establishing unlawful retaliation, and expanded the damages available. What’s more -- charges of retaliation can be successful even if the original complaint is found to be without merit!! 

3. The Effects of Human Nature  

It is human nature to want to strike back at someone who attacks or accuses you of wrongdoing. As a result, retaliation cases tend to be more believable in the eyes of jurors than other forms of misconduct. With higher success rates and greater potential for awarded damages, more claims end up being made.

4. Preventing Retaliation is The “Right Thing to Do” 

Preventing retaliation is the right thing to do. Employers have a moral obligation to protect employees’ rights and employee trust levels drop markedly if management tolerates retaliation.

 

Too often, the topic of retaliation is covered only as an add-on to training on other important employment-related issues. Taking steps to educate managers and supervisors on the scope and specific risks of unlawful retaliation is an essential component of an effective risk and compliance management program. Companies such as Syntrio, Inc. specialize in providing online anti-discrimination, harassment and retaliation training in a comprehensive yet cost-effective and time sensitive manner. Contact Syntrio today at 888-289-6670 to discuss the ways we can help your supervisors and HR professionals ensure that they are up to date with state and federal employment law training requirements.