Train Your Managers on 12 More Common Ways They Could Risk Legal Action

In yesterday’s Advisor, we listed 15 management actions that can increase your company’s risk of being sued. Today, we present 12 more manager/supervisor actions that you must be training against according to our sister publication HR Daily Advisor.

To recap: Since employees can bring a suit for just about anything, no amount of training can guarantee eliminating employee lawsuits. However, if you implement effective management training, you can greatly mitigate the risk.
Some items on this list should be obvious, but their importance is still great—managers and supervisors need to be consistently trained and continually reminded of their legal obligations.
1. Ignoring an employee’s request for accommodation. Remember, even though the employee does need to request accommodation, he or she does not have to use “magic words” to do so. In other words, the employee doesn’t need to say “I need a reasonable accommodation for my disability.”
2. Ignoring information that would indicate an employee’s absences are due to an Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)-qualifying reason, and then deducting vacation/paid time off (PTO)/sick days instead (and possibly disciplining or terminating the employee once he or she has reached the PTO policy limit). Just like an Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) accommodation, an employee does not have to use “magic words” to qualify for FMLA leave. He or she simply needs to make the reason for the leave known to the employer—the employer needs to recognize when the employee has a right to take FMLA leave and advise him or her accordingly.

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3. Turning down a leave request when there is no reason to do so.
4. Treating some groups differently from others when it comes to documentation requirements during the Form I-9 (employment eligibility verification) process.
5. Failing to diffuse employee problems before they escalate into violence.
6. Knowingly allowing unfair pay practices to happen or continue, such as:

  • Not paying for overtime;
  • Paying less than minimum wage;
  • Making illegal wage deductions, such as:
    • Refusing to pay overtime, even if there was a policy in which overtime was not allowed; in this case, the employer still has an obligation to pay it, and the employee behavior should be addressed separately; and
    • Docking the pay of an exempt employee when he or she misses a few hours of a day.
  • Requiring or allowing nonexempt employees to work off the clock;
  • Classifying an employee as exempt when he or she does not meet the qualifications; or
  • Not allowing mandatory rest and meal breaks (state laws are often much stricter than federal laws on mandatory break periods).

7. Not taking the time to fully understand legal obligations and all of the laws that govern the workplace.
8. Not being courteous and respectful to all employees. While this is not necessarily illegal as long as it doesn’t become bullying or discrimination, it can increase the likelihood of a lawsuit if the employee becomes disgruntled. This is true at any time, but especially during the termination process, which needs to be handled respectfully.
9. Firing an employee without giving any opportunity to improve the situation (except, of course, in egregious cases of misconduct).
10. Divulging confidential employee information, such as medical information.
11. Terminating an employee and giving false reasons for the termination, which can raise red flags and could appear to be a way of hiding an illegal termination decision.
12. Not following through with any established policy or practice relating to pay, such as severance or accrued vacation payout upon termination.

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While this is a long list, it can serve as a starting point for creating and updating managerial training sessions that will help reduce your company’s risk of a lawsuit. What else would you add to the list?

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