We are just a few weeks into the new year and many New Year’s resolutions have already gone by the wayside. If you make just one work-related resolution this year, pledge to train your supervisors on key workforce management topics. Here are three compliance areas that should top your training list for 2016. 

1. Knowing Company Policy and Legal Obligations 

Because supervisors are the front-line company representatives who have the most day-to-day contact with employees, they need to know and understand your company policies. You need to train your supervisors on recognizing which company policies are applicable in various employment scenarios. Then, you must instruct your supervisors on how to enforce your policies in a consistent, uniform, non-discriminatory manner.

Supervisors also need to know their role in ensuring that your company complies with applicable employment laws. An individual in a supervisory role acts on behalf of the company and their unlawful actions toward employees can result in company (and in some cases, personal) liability.

Key topics for supervisor training on policies and employment laws should include:

  • Equal employment opportunity – how it applies to hiring, training, promotion, etc.
  • Discrimination and harassment – how to prevent it, what to do if observed, etc.
  • Retaliation – what triggers protections against retaliation, how to handle discipline after an employee has engaged in protected conduct, etc.
  • Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and other medical leaves – recognizing requests for FMLA leave, limits on contacting the employee’s health care provider, restrictions on reaching out to the employee while out on leave, etc.
  • Reasonable accommodations – what may be required for disability and religious accommodations, how to handle accommodation requests, etc.
  • Inappropriate behavior by supervisors – provide specific examples of supervisor conduct or decisions that can lead to company liability, such as excluding female employees from certain job opportunities, name-calling/harassment, failing to stop others from harassing employees, etc.
  • Proper timekeeping and pay issues – prohibiting “off-the-clock” work, need for accurate time records, how to handle unapproved overtime, etc.

2. Proper Documentation and Retention of Records

A key duty of supervisors is to properly document workplace issues and the enforcement of company policies. But many supervisors are never trained on how to do that. They are thrown into a supervisory role with access to a myriad of HR forms and left to their own devices to complete them. Or, they are asked to conduct interviews, performance evaluations, and discipline meetings without being trained on what to (and not to) write down.

Make documentation an essential training session for your supervisors. Be sure to include the following documentation skills:

  • Make records at the time of, or shortly following, the event – don’t wait weeks or months to create your documentation
  • Focus on the facts, not generalizations or subjective comments
  • Clearly state performance expectations
  • Avoid potentially discriminatory statements
  • Don’t exaggerate or embellish
  • Cite specific company policies, as applicable
  • Set specific deadlines for follow-up

Documentation may be the most disliked part of a supervisor’s job. Make it more palatable by explaining how important documentation will be when defending an employee lawsuit and why it is essential that it is done correctly. Also include training on where each type of document should be kept (e.g., personnel file, training file, etc.) and for how long. The time spent training supervisors on proper documentation will pay off each time your organization is asked to defend an employment decision.

3. Managing The Injured Employee

When an employee is injured or becomes ill, supervisors face a lot of decisions. How do we cover the employee’s shifts? How do we complete that important project that the employee was spearheading? What do we do with work restrictions? What paperwork must be completed? In addition to handling operational and business concerns, supervisors need to understand the legal rights of employees that may come into play.

Depending on the circumstances, managing an injured or ill employee can involve the intersection of workers’ compensation law, FMLA leave, disability accommodations, and company policies. Even if HR or an outside administrator handles portions of the process, supervisors should be trained on employee and employer rights and responsibilities under these laws. You will help reduce the risk of FMLA, disability, and workers’ comp claims by training supervisors on:

  • Workers’ compensation procedures, including the importance of reporting every workplace injury (no matter how minor), how workers’ comp leave is handled, and what light duty assignments may be available
  • Specifics related to your FMLA policy, including who handles the FMLA paperwork, confidentiality considerations, job-restoration rights and prohibition on retaliation
  • How disability law can factor into decisions, if the employee’s condition is deemed a disability, including issues related to extending the amount of leave, and other accommodations that may be required to allow the employee to perform the essential functions of the job
  • What each supervisor’s role is in regards to these employer duties – which tasks and decisions are made by HR and which are made by the supervisor, when should a supervisor consult with others in the organization before taking action related to an injured (or formerly injured) employee, etc.

Make Training Sessions Practical 

Start 2016 off right by creating a training plan for your supervisors on these essential topics. Then, keep your resolution alive by executing the plan and offering practical, example-driven training to your front-line supervisors. Be sure to allow plenty of time for questions in a non-intimidating learning environment. Training time now will pay enormous dividends down the road in better decision-making by supervisors resulting in fewer employment claims by employees.