Training for Labor Law Compliance

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An important aspect of labor law compliance involves training.  This can be a formidable task to Human Resources (HR) professionals because training may involve create-your-own training programs or purchasing off-the-shelf programs from a variety of vendors.  HR professionals will need to weigh the needs of their organization with budgets to determine where training is needed most and then redirect funds and resources to address the training needs.

While training programs are not “required” under labor compliance, it is a requirement that all managers and employees know the laws and understand their roles and responsibilities.  Training programs ensure that all individuals receive the same message consistently to avoid confusion in messages.  Some of the core areas of labor law compliance training include the following:

Sexual Harassment and Diversity Training – These are two unique training experiences and yet they share many common elements.  Training in these areas may have a common message to everyone as well as a unique training directed toward managers.

Employee training includes topics such as:

  • Define sexual harassment and discrimination
  • Examples of behavior that is considered harassment or discrimination
  • Outline what an employee should do if they believe they are a victim of harassment or discrimination
  • Train managers on how to recognize harassment and discrimination and how to respond when an employee comes to the manager with complaints
  • Explain everyone’s role in ensuring that the workplace is free from harassment and discrimination
  • Communicate the company’s policy and make it abundantly clear that employees will not suffer as a result of raising facts and concerns concerning harassment and discrimination

Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) Training – FLSA deals with compensation, overtime pay and employment of minors to name a few things.  Ensuring that managers are trained in these areas is very important.  Recent changes to overtime laws make FLSA training even more important so that managers understand who is overtime eligible and who is not.  Ensuring that a company is FLSA compliant is important as failure to comply could result in payment of back wages in additions to fines and penalties.

Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) Training – It is important that managers understand the FMLA and are able to respond as employees request leaves of absence.  The law provides employees protection in this area and some states go above and beyond the federal requirements.  Managers should be trained to know under what circumstances employees are permitted to take leaves and how to handle such requests.

Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Training – This training can be very extensive.  Depending on the type of business, a variety of training may be required for both managers and employees.  Ensuring that employees know how to safely handle and operate equipment, tools, chemicals and bodily fluids are just the beginning of health and safety training.  OSHA provides many tools to assist a company in its training initiatives.  Additionally, managers and supervisors need training in how to spot non-compliance, what to do when an employee violates a law, what type of incidents are reportable and how to report problems including violations as well as work accidents and injuries.

Employers show they are good stewards of their responsibilities by ensuring Reasonable Care which is demonstrated by their diligence to communicating with employees and managers concerning important compliance topics such as those mentioned above. Reasonable care means that the organization:

  • Clearly explains to all individuals their appropriate roles and responsibilities in issues of compliance.
  • Provides the essential requirements of compliance relative to each individual’s role.
  • Provides a clear process for reporting violations, concerns or answering questions.
  • Ensures confidentiality so that employees are free from any type of retribution as a result of filing complaints, asking questions or raising concerns.
  • Ensure that there is a documented plan for investigating complaints or concerns. Investigations may include internal and/or external investigations.
  • Communicate a plan for corrective action in handbooks and/or safety manuals, ensuring that employees understand the consequences for violations.

While this is just a brief explanation of the types of training required, the depth and complexity of training can be quite extensive.  Compliance is heavily reliant upon communication between employers and employees as well as training to ensure compliance to the laws.  Employers who take care in training and communications are often well-protected under the law, however, companies that do not take communication and training seriously may meet with harsher citations or penalties for violations.

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