Do Your Supervisors Have Sufficient Training to Fulfill Their Roles?


Dan Miller is a partner with the law firm of MacDonald, Illig, Jones & Britton LLP. Miller is chair of the firm’s Labor & Employment practice group. He represents management in collective bargaining, labor relations, employee relations, employment discrimination, unemployment compensation and wage-and-hour case law.

Many employers promote their best workers to supervisory positions thinking that these employees will set a good example and hold others to their high standards. However, employers often fail to provide these new supervisors with sufficient training to perform their job. Most forms of legal liability in the employment relationship can be avoided by providing supervisors with training on their role in an increasingly complex legal environment and how to best document supervisory actions.

Employment Law
Supervisors need to be trained on federal, state and local employment laws that govern the employment relationship. These laws include the At-Will Employment Doctrine, various forms of wrongful discharge causes of action, as well as discrimination, wage-and-hour and safety laws. It is critical that supervisors understand that their role as a supervisor puts them in a unique position to help the employer comply with these complex laws and regulations and to avoid violations. Many times supervisors simply have no familiarity with their obligations to receive and communicate information necessary to comply with the law. Such training should explain that a supervisor’s action or lack of action often creates or avoids liability for the employer.

Corrective Action
One of the key factors to supervisory training on employment law is to get supervisors to understand effective tools for correcting employee behavior and performance through corrective action. Supervisors are often reluctant to engage in corrective action with employees since there is a negative impression of discipline. However, most claims can be avoided or defended by supervisors employing fair and consistent practices in managing their employees and utilizing corrective action. Supervisory training should be focused on proper utilization of corrective action and performance reviews to improve behavior and performance and avoid legal liability.

Harassment Training
A crucial area in supervisor training is to explain the employer’s Harassment Policy and to gain a familiarity with discrimination laws that prohibit harassment. Comprehensive harassment training will sensitize supervisors to not only their role in preventing harassment, but also their role in maintaining a workplace that is free of behavior that can result in such claims. Sometimes supervisors simply do not understand that the behavior they witness every day in the workplace can be evidence in a harassment case.

Workers’ Compensation Training
One significant expense faced by employers is workers’ compensation costs. Supervisors should be trained in not only identifying unsafe work practices, but also how to remedy those practices and how to investigate and report claims. Supervisors are the eyes and ears of most companies and play a critical role in ensuring a safe workplace.

Having well-trained supervisors who understand the law, know how to document issues that arise, and know how to use fair and consistent practices will help avoid legal liability and ensure compliance.

If you have any questions concerning the contents of this article, or if you are interested in supervisory training, contact Dan Miller at MacDonald, Illig, Jones & Britton LLP at 814/870-7708, or any other member of the MacDonald Illig Labor and Employment Practice Group.