Compliance Through Effective Supervisor Training: Part 2

In part one of this series, we discussed how training your supervisor staff on workplace discrimination/harassment prevention and matters regarding disability compliance. While these may be on the top of your list, there are still several topics that your managerial staff must have proper training to ensure compliance for the company as a whole.


WAGE AND HOUR TRAINING

Because supervisors are often tasked with scheduling and tracking employees’ work time, it is imperative that they understand the importance of accurately recording – and ensuring proper payment for – all hours worked by employees. Specifically, supervisors should be aware of the basic requirements under both the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and any applicable state laws that impose employee wage requirements.

This is particularly important when it comes to employees who are not exempt from the FLSA’s overtime payment requirements, because virtually all employers must ensure that these employees receive 1.5 times their usual hourly wage for any time they spend working beyond 40 hours in a workweek. Among other related topics, some key rules that supervisors should be trained to understand about this are that:

  • Although employers may have policies that require employees to obtain supervisor approval before working overtime, employees who work unapproved overtime are still entitled to overtime compensation, even if they are subject to discipline under the employer’s policy; and
  • Allowing or encouraging any nonexempt employee to work “off the clock” is strictly prohibited.

It is also important for supervisors to be trained to ensure that employees take – and do not perform work during – any meal or break periods that may be required under applicable state law.

Finally, supervisor training should prepare supervisors to take appropriate steps in the event an employee has a dispute about his or her pay. This should include training on the importance of handling any pay disputes as promptly as possible.

DOCUMENTATION TRAINING

When it comes to resolving employment-related disputes, detailed documentation can make all the difference for an employer. For example, records showing an employee’s poor performance, attendance issues, behavioral problems, disputes with other employees, or other indiscretions can serve as an employer’s proof that any adverse employment action or termination was not because of illegal discrimination, but rather due to the legitimate employment issues the documentation reveals.

On the other hand, having bad documentation can be worse than having no documentation at all. Therefore, supervisors should be trained not only on the importance of creating records in the first place, but also on the importance of ensuring that their records are as helpful as possible for the employer.

Specifically, a training program should include information about how to:

  • State specific facts as objectively as possible;
  • Avoid inserting any personal opinions or conclusions; and
  • Include only relevant job-related facts, such as specific portions of a company policy.

CONFIDENTIALITY TRAINING

Supervisors often have access to a variety of information about employees, including wage and salary information and sometimes even medical information. Although it may seem like protecting this information from unauthorized disclosure should go without saying, employers should never assume that supervisors are aware of all the confidentiality obligations that may apply under various federal and state laws.

For example, supervisors may not be aware that the ADA requires them to keep an employee’s medical information confidential even if it does not include any information about a medical diagnosis, and even if it is not generated by a health care professional. Thus, an employer’s training program should include this type of detail about all applicable laws, along with practical tips for avoiding violations.

COMMUNICATION TRAINING

When communication styles clash, simple workplace messages can unnecessarily explode into full-blown legal headaches for an employer. For this reason, employers should consider training supervisors on, among other things, how to:

  • Use appropriate tone and timing to deliver information about company policies and in all conversations with employees;
  • Increase employee engagement through regular one-on-ones and other meetings with employees;
  • Set a positive example by following all company policies and avoiding even the appearance of undermining those policies; and
  • Know when to say “I don’t know” and obtain the appropriate information before answering an employee’s question, instead of providing an inaccurate response and later retracting it.

ADDITIONAL GUIDANCE

Supervisor training should not be a “one and done” operation. Attention spans are short, and the more information that is thrown at supervisors, the harder it will be for them to retain any of it. Therefore, employers should consider breaking up training sessions over time and using a variety of teaching methods.

For example, an employer’s overall supervisor training program could utilize various e-learning or other self-directed learning systems for certain topics, but also include in-person teaching sessions for other topics. Training sessions could also be scheduled on an ongoing basis, such as through a series of monthly or quarterly “lunch and learn” meetings. Regardless of any regular training schedule, however, employers should always ensure that supervisors:

  • Receive timely notification and training on any new or different legal obligations as they arise; and
  • Are kept up to speed on any changes made to employee handbooks or company policies at all times.

Employers should also prioritize training topics based on the specific needs of their organizations. Conducting exit interviews with departing employees can be a useful means of identifying topics that may be most important to include. These interviews can also help an employer determine whether a particular supervisor may need additional training or other interventions to ensure that he or she is advancing the employer’s goals.

Directly asking supervisors about these issues is another way employers can gather information to help them design effective training programs. Employers could ask supervisors whether there are any topics they feel they should learn more about and whether they have any feedback about the training they have already received.

Finally, employers should ensure that their training programs are engaging and interactive. Supervisors should be given time to ask questions and participate in discussions, and lessons should be easily transferable to actual workplace challenges. To include as many real-life examples as possible, employers could ask supervisors to describe situations they have worked through in the past and add new or different twists for discussion. Employers may also consider even asking supervisors if they have any current employee situations that they would be willing to share and work through in the training.

Here at FBS, we have resources that can help train your employees on all forms of compliance matters. If you need help with compliance issues or employee benefits, contact us to speak to a consultant today.