Training key to compliance

Gavel to Gavel

published in The Journal Record | May 19, 2016

By Tony G. Puckett

The employment laws with which businesses must comply continue to grow in complexity and number. Within the last few months alone, federal agencies have been busy releasing new guidelines affecting a myriad of workplace issues, including on-the-job injury reporting; background checks and the Fair Credit Reporting Act; and restroom access for transgender employees.

In courts, not only are discrimination and harassment lawsuits on the rise, employment laws continue to expand to include claims for sexual orientation discrimination as well as claims for retaliation for complaining about pay practices under the Fair Labor Standards Act and discussing unhappiness about supervisors in social media under the National Labor Relations Act. The costs of defending such lawsuits in terms of both time and money can range anywhere from disruptive to devastating.

For most businesses, developments like these that affect employment practices are the responsibility of human resources. Compliance with employment regulations not only fosters a better working environment in which employees will bring issues to HR directly rather than seeking third-party intervention, it also is critical to avoiding liability and financial penalties. Workplace training is vital to accomplishing both.

Each year, employers spend millions responding to employment-related claims, but a significant part of those expenses could have been avoided, if only they had invested in a comprehensive employee training program. Not only do such programs communicate a consistent message to all employees and help prevent workplace violations before they happen, the courts have stated repeatedly that annual training for employees on employment laws is necessary for a company to demonstrate good-faith efforts to comply with its legal requirements, and to avoid enhanced damages like costly punitive damages.

Training an entire workforce – especially those involving multiple shifts, remote locations, and a constant stream of new employees who need to be onboarded – is not without its challenges, but thanks to technology such as webinars and McAfee & Taft’s own JurisIQ on-demand, online video targeted training system, it is both doable and affordable. Employers would be well-advised to take advantage of training opportunities like these for both employees and human resources professionals. Better to invest in a well-trained workforce on the front end than face the consequences once a lawsuit is filed or an agency comes knocking.

This article appeared in the May 19, 2016, issue of The Journal Record. It is reproduced with permission from the publisher. © The Journal Record Publishing Co.