Policies and Training Are the Start to a Compliant Workplace, Not the End

Posted by HLL Admin

Many employers think that enacting legally compliant policies and holding regular employee training are the keys to avoiding employment claims. To be fair, these steps are critical in ensuring that an employer can defend itself in the event of an employee claim of a lawsuit. Policies and training, though, are really the starting point and not the finish line when it comes to EEO compliance.

In order to continue to mitigate risks of employee claims and ensure the most defensible position in the event of a lawsuit, employers must take continued steps to demonstrate buy-in from the very top employees in management all the way throughout the chain of command. Low level employees cannot be expected to follow or abide by policies which their supervisors and managers, much less the leader of the company or organization, do not show a personal commitment to. Policy adoption is simply not enough. There must be a culture shift in the business or organization which demonstrates the policies are not simply legal mumbo-jumbo but rather something the entire workplace is responsible for and expected to participate in.

In addition to making sure your chain of command works to enforce your policies, rather than undermine them, you must also train your supervisors and managers of their special legal duties. The actions of supervisors and managers are imputed to the employer in many situations. Supervisors and managers are, as a result, your first line of defense and they can also be your biggest weakness. Supervisors and managers need separate, specialized training to help them learn to spot legal issues and mitigate them before they become “an issue,” as well as how to document employee issues in a way that is both truthful and supports the employer in the event of a lawsuit.

Supervisors and managers also need a series of internal checks to ensure that the manner in which policies and procedures are implemented is both fair and uniform to all employees. This can involve procedures like personnel roundtables or an internal review process with respect to higher level disciplinary decisions. With the proper checks, an employer can ensure that their policies are not only compliant on paper but also implemented in a manner that is fair and uniform.

Please note that this article is a general summary and does not attempt to cover your specific situation or detail the obligations you have under state or federal law. Natalie Higgins is a labor and employment lawyer based in St. Louis, Missouri. She represents employers in all facets of litigation as well as providing consulting and training services to employers who want to proactively manage their employee litigation risks. Questions about your business to improve its discipline policy? Contact Natalie at natalie@hugheslawyersllc.com.

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