To recap, attorneys representing aggrieved employees in discrimination, retaliation, harassment, wage and hour, and other types of employment claims love allegations of supervisor wrongdoing because that’s the “smoking gun” they need to paint that supervisor as a villain—whose statements, acts, decisions, and omissions should result in liability for the employer. Also, such acts may fuel additional, individual liability claims against the supervisor under the Fair Labor Standards Act, the Family and Medical Leave Act, and other laws.
To help you make your compliance risk training more effective, BLR® and HR Hero® interviewed former Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) trial attorney Merrily Archer about some common practical “defensive management” tools for today’s workplace.
BLR/HR Hero: What are some of the problems you’ve seen when organizations do not adequately train managers to spot and escalate potential EEO issues?
Archer: In all the discrimination litigation I’ve handled, a common theme has emerged: EEO issues “germinate” on the ground between managers and employees long before HR is even aware of the growing problem.
You know your managers could do a better job if they were trained—and now BLR® offers you an easy and affordable way to get that done—with our TrainingToday® 24/7 online Leadership Library. Get more information.
For example, managers may perfunctorily deny otherwise-protected Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) or the American with Disabilities Act (ADA) leave because of operational concerns, fail to escalate prior harassment complaints or reasonable accommodation requests, reassign job duties after a discrimination allegation, distribute extremely inappropriate e-mails, etc., etc., all before HR and in-house counsel can intervene, coach the manager, and right the ship. We need to train managers to S-E-E (Spot, Escalate, Engage) people problems before they degenerate into legal ones.
Further, most updates about EEO law come from law firms and reach only HR professionals and other lawyers. Accordingly, most of the time, EEO training/education amounts to “preaching to the choir,” and the message does not reach the large “congregation” of managers. Most HR managers and in-house employment counsel care passionately about the EEO and strive to ensure that workers are treated fairly.
Given the increasing prevalence and risk of workplace EEO disputes, organizations must bridge this disconnect between compliance-focused HR and legal personnel, and operations-focused managers on the ground. In other words, to manage this risk more effectively, employers must work on their “ground game.”
Worried about ever getting your managers and supervisors trained to be effective leaders? It isn’t easy to fit it in—schedulewise or budgetwise—but now there’s BLR’s Leadership Library for Managers and Supervisors. Train all your people, at their convenience, 24/7, for one standard fee. Get more information.
For more of Archer’s insights, read her recent blog post Defensive Management: Getting the Message to Managers (Where It Matters Most).