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!

 

2016 Brings New California Employment Discrimination Law Challenges

As 2015 comes to a close and we prepare to turn the calendar to 2016, employers must prepare for some important changes coming to California’s employment discrimination laws. This post will briefly cover two of the major changes to California’s discrimination and retaliation laws that prompt further training for your managers and employees in the coming year.

Protection for Family Members When an Employee Engages in a Protected Activity

Assembly Bill 1509 is effective January 1, 2016, and adds new protection for family members of employees who complain of discrimination or unsafe working conditions. This law is relevant to employers who employ multiple family members, or have client dealings wherein family members interact.

AB 1509 impacts management training directly, in that retaliation and discrimination training must cover situations where familial relationships cross over into the workplace. Many managers simply will not consider the fact that a refusal to deal with family members of an employee who has made a discrimination complaint will violate the law. In reality, AB 1509 can create liability for companies whose managers take these types of actions.

Protection from Retaliation Related to Disability or Religious-Belief Accommodation

Assembly Bill 987 (also effective January 1, 2016) prohibits employers from taking retaliatory or discriminatory action against those employees who request an accommodation for a disability or religious custom or observance, regardless of whether the accommodation was actually granted.

AB 987 has the practical effect of making a request for accommodation engagement in a protected activity, regardless of whether the request is granted or not. While this seems technical in nature, the application of this new law will have implications on retaliation and discrimination lawsuits in California, as many managers still believe that when a request is denied for good reason there can be no retaliation or discrimination. Managers need to be trained that policies must be revised to reflect that all employees making requests for accommodation must be treated equally.

As you can see, two seemingly minor changes in California discrimination law can have a major impact on the way the law will be applied. If it has been some time since your company has conducted California discrimination and harassment training , the beginning of 2016 could not be a better time to do so.

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 www.syntrio.com for more information about our prevention of discrimination in the workplace courses for management and remember to follow us on Twitter, Google Plus and LinkedIn for daily updates on employment law and 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!

 

The ADA Turns 25 Yet Disability Discrimination in the Workplace Persists

On July 20, 2015, President Obama celebrated the 25th anniversary of the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990 (“ADA”) in Washington. The historic celebration marked a quarter century of increased statutory protection for disabled employees. Although the ADA has unquestionably reduced incidents of disability discrimination, and has increased employer awareness of their obligation to accommodate disabilities in the workplace, it is far from perfect and contains many complicated facets that are difficult for employers to comply with. Simply stated, disability discrimination in the workplace still occurs, and it is something employers need to watch out for via heightened awareness and training programs.

Roto Rooter to Pay $100,000 to Settle Disability Discrimination Charge

Just a week shy of the ADA’s 25th birthday, Roto Rooter settled a disability discrimination dispute after an investigation revealed that an Iraq War Veteran was denied the ability to return to his job with reasonable accommodation. The EEOC investigation found that it was unacceptable for a military service veteran to be denied reinstatement where it was clear that there were accommodations available that could allow him to resume his job duties.

In addition to paying $100,000 to settle the case, the EEOC has required Roto Rooter to complete vigorous training focused on the ADA, reasonable requests for accommodation, and the duty to report employee requests for reasonable accommodation. All of this could have been prevented had Roto Rooter conducted disability discrimination in the workplace training up front, rather than be forced to do so as a remedial measure.

Disability Discrimination in the Workplace Training Has Multiple Benefits

The ADA requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations to employees with qualifying disabilities. Many times managers or HR professionals dismiss requests for accommodation as unreasonable without thinking about them. Consider the situation where an employee returns from back surgery and requests an ergonomic chair that must be ordered from an office supply store. Although many managers dismiss such requests and attempt to remedy the situation with an existing piece of furniture, if the chair can be acquired at a reasonable cost, failing to meet the request (or coming to a consensus accommodation) can be disability discrimination.

Syntrio Is Committed to Helping Employers Comply with the ADA

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 disability discrimination in the workplace courses that are cognizant of the value of time to modern companies.  Contact www.syntrio.com for more information about our HR compliance courses and remember to follow us on TwitterGoogle Plus and LinkedIn for daily updates on employment law and compliance issues that may impact your organization!