Ways You Can Help Make Your
Training Programs More Legally Effective
Kevin E. Hyde
Just like other initiatives, corporate training programs
have taken their fair share of budget cuts. Josh Bersin details this trend in
the current online edition of HR Management magazine (http://tinyurl.com/6em379a).
He notes that corporate training and development budgets were cut by 12 to 18
percent in the second half of 2008 alone. And, that trend continues.
In the legal realm, training on company policies relating
to harassment, discrimination, and retaliation remains vitally important.
Courts continue to recognize the value of (and in some states the statutory
requirement for) training as a way to (1) establish and promote the company's
policy prohibiting discrimination, harassment, or retaliation; (2) establish
that employees who violate the policy did not do so out of ignorance that the
policy exists; and (3) as a good faith affirmative defense to any
discrimination, harassment or retaliation that may occur. But how do you
stretch a limited training budget to accomplish these legal goals?
Consider the following steps for effective training:
There is no magic bullet in training. But the steps above
can help you make your training more "legally" effective and may help reduce
the number of incidents giving rise to complaints. If a complaint does occur,
training is an effective tool to demonstrate the company's prohibition of
harassment, discrimination, or retaliation.
Company Policy May Require Employees to
Report Injuries More Quickly than Allowed Under State Law
Christi R. Adams
A federal appellate court agreed that a Tennessee
employer may require workers to report their injuries more quickly than the
30-day time limit allowed under Tennessee's workers' compensation laws. (Geronimo
v. Caterpillar Inc., 6th Cir. No. 09-6401, 9/7/11) (http://tinyurl.com/3bpdosv).
The court rejected the employee's claims of retaliation and wrongful discharge
for terminating an employee for failing to report that she had symptoms of
gradual-onset carpal tunnel syndrome. The case is encouraging for employers,
because the court allowed the employer to enforce its time limitations,
although the employee's condition was based on a health condition that involved
a gradual-onset of symptoms.
The employee had worked for the company for more than
seven years when she transferred positions within the company. On the first day
of her new position, she began to feel pain in her hands. Over the following
two weeks, the employee's pain remained relatively mild and occurred only when
she was gripping machine parts. However, her pain later grew more intense and
her periods of pain began to last longer. Approximately a month after
transferring to her new position, the employee visited the employer's on-staff
nurse and complained that she was experiencing pain and that it kept her awake
at night. The employee advised the nurse that she had not reported the pain
earlier because she thought the condition would improve and she did not want to
jeopardize her job.
The employer terminated the employee the next day because
she had failed to communicate her injury in a timely manner. The employee
admitted she had attended mandatory meetings and trainings in which she was
informed of the company's rules requiring her to report her injuries
immediately, or as soon as she was are of it and suspected that it was
The court explained that the state's workers' compensation
law provided the employee had a 30-day window in which to file a workers'
compensation claim with the state from the date of the injury, or from the date
the employee knew or should have known that her injury was caused by her work.
However, the court also explained that the state statute did not forbid an
employer from imposing its own, more stringent notice requirements for
workplace injuries. The court reasoned that the employee's interpretation of
the statute would allow employees to aggravate their injuries by continuing to
work, thereby possibly endangering their colleagues and preventing their
employers from providing potential remedies at the earliest possible date.
The court's decision was based on an interpretation of
one state's law and may not apply to all jurisdictions; however, it reminds us
all of the importance of not only having a written policy requiring employees
to report workplace accidents in a timely manner, but also reminds us that such
policies should be enforced in a uniform manner.
Labor and Employment Trivia
Last week's question: What labor strike of the early 1900s was known as the
"Bread and Roses Strike" and why was it called that?
Answer: The term refers to a
strike of textile industry workers, which occurred in the factory town of
Lawrence, Massachusetts during January - March 1912. The strike was triggered
when mill owners lowered wages immediately after a new law shortening the
workweek went into effect. The impact of the wage cut and lower hours inflamed
the workers. The strike defied the assumptions of conservative trade unions
that immigrant, largely female, and ethnically divided workers could not be
organized. The strike eventually spread to almost every textile mill in
Lawrence. The name "bread and roses" is thought to have been derived from The
Cry for Justice: An Anthology of the Literature of Social Protest by Upton
Sinclair. Women in the strike carried a banner "We want bread and roses
too." Roses signified the respect due to them as women, rather than just
as cheap labor.
This week's question:
What is the "Control Test" and where is it used?
Please continue to send suggestions for trivia questions