Supervisor Training

I frequently mention what a good idea it is to train your supervisors and managers on wage and hour rules… usually in the context of writing about a company that got in trouble and paid big penalties because of a supervisor or manager’s misguided actions.


Photo copyright Robert Sanzalone

Obviously, you say. Training is clearly a good thing, you say. But a surprising number of small businesses don’t offer formal training. Perhaps they start with good intentions, but it’s all too easy to get caught up in the press of day-to-day operations, while training falls by the wayside.

So now it’s my job to try to motivate you. Don’t just talk about the importance of training — schedule training. And not just a one-time shot, but at least annually.

But Why Would I Want To Do This?

I know, annual training seems as though it could turn into a colossal waste of time and money. Here are some very good reasons why it’s crucial:

  • The law assumes that your supervisors know the rules. It’s possible that when an employee brings a claim based on misconduct by a supervisor, they may face a lower burden of proof than if they bring a claim based on the conduct of (non-supervisory) co-workers. This makes it imperative that your supervisors actually know what to do (and what not to do) in various situations.

    Additionally, if you can show you’ve conducted proper training, this could be a component of your defense if one of your supervisors did misbehave. Showing the company did the right things and acted in good faith can help reduce or eliminate some penalties. If a supervisor broke the rules because they were never trained on the rules, your company could find itself facing additional sanctions beyond monetary penalties. In one recent case, for instance, a hotel group was required to revise their employee handbook, set up a toll-free number for workers to seek guidance and report violations, and to hire a director of Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) compliance to train and monitor their managers, in part because they failed to train supervisors properly to start with.

  • Supervisors need to know when to call for help. Not too long ago on an HR-related blog, I read about a situation where an employee contracted a serious illness and requested accommodation under the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA). Initially, their supervisor denied their request, saying that offering accommodations to this one employee would be “unfair” to the other workers. Fortunately, in this situation the company had an HR specialist, the employee complained to HR, and HR was able to educate the supervisor on the requirements of the ADA — all of which headed off a potential lawsuit (which the company would almost certainly have lost).

    But what if that company didn’t have an on-site HR department? What if the employee decided to go straight to a lawyer instead of following up with HR? The company could have found themselves liable for a huge judgement or settlement — and likely some bad publicity — for discrimination against the disabled.

    With a little training, that supervisor might have known (or suspected) that the ADA could apply, and would have known enough to contact the HR department or someone further up the ladder who could get advice from the company’s employment law advisor. Without training, supervisors may be making decisions that can get the company in a lot of trouble, without even realizing the danger.

  • Things change. This is the main reason an annual refresher is so important. While changes to national laws usually get mentioned in the press, state and local laws are revised all the time. And even with big national changes, you can’t count on all your supervisors paying attention and understanding the applicability of the changes to your company’s situation. That one-time training you gave your supervisors five years ago is likely woefully out of date today.

    You should be updating your policies and handbooks to reflect these changes, but are you sure all your supervisors are aware of all the changes? Are you sure your managers are up to date with all the current employment laws that apply to your business? Are you willing to bet the future of your business on it?

It Isn’t As Hard As You Might Think

Fortunately, wage and hour training doesn’t have to be an all-day marathon taking your employees away from their jobs when there’s work to be done. Even an hour or two could bring everyone up to speed enough to keep your company out of trouble. And once you get in the habit of scheduling an annual “refresher” course, you’ll find subsequent sessions can be even more efficient.

Your employment law advisor should be able to either conduct training for you, refer you to a suitable trainer, or help you design a training program you or someone from your company can deliver that will cover all the applicable bases. (If you do decide to “do it yourself,” though, be sure to check back every year with your legal advisor to make sure you’ve incorporated any necessary updates.)

And Help Is Available

If you (or your HR department) would like some additional help keeping up with workforce management requirements, AcroTime HR could prove invaluable. From helping you write a solid employee handbook, to tracking the filing of required government documentation, to ensuring consistent application of disciplinary actions, AcroTime HR can help save time on important HR processes, save money by helping your company avoid penalties and fines, and increase your employee satisfaction, morale, and productivity. Request a personalized demo today!

What about your company? How often do you train your supervisors on wage and hour laws? Who conducts the training? What are you major concerns when it comes to this kind of training?

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