Is it Legal?

Posted by: Eric L. Herzog, Ph.D.,

Training for Awareness and Prevention

Understanding the legal issues of managing has never been more important. From sexual harassment to discrimination and family leave, supervisors and managers must understand the laws and how to protect themselves and the organization from lawsuits. Employment litigation has mushroomed, and multi-million dollar verdicts against companies are more common. Some laws, such as unlawful harassment, allow for individual supervisors and managers to have personal liability in addition to the organization’s responsibility.

Managers and supervisors are constantly making decisions about hiring, paying, disciplining, and terminating employees that can have legal ramifications. Being on the “front line” of these actions, they must have up to date information about not only how to manage and communicate, but how to do their job within the legal framework.

The following areas are some of the most important for awareness and prevention of legal problems.

Diversity and Harassment

Diversity training today covers the wide range of differences found in the workplace, including race, culture, gender, sexual orientation, age, disability, etc. Exploring these differences and understanding the value of respect for differences is crucial, not only to a cohesive workplace, but also to understanding management’s role in creating and enforcing tolerance and understanding.

Diversity training can go a long way towards preventing illegal discrimination since it is often given to the entire company in some form. Managers may get a more extensive class, but everyone needs to understand and respect differences.

Along with diversity, laws against harassment and sexual harassment are usually discussed as part of a comprehensive training program. An important part of Diversity and Harassment training is to make managers clearly aware of the personal liability they may face.

Other Employment Laws Including Wage and Hour Issues

Employment law training normally covers the legalities of interviewing, understanding leaves of absence and disability issues, how to discipline and prepare legal documentation, how to terminate legally, and basic wage and hour law. Understanding the complex law of classifying employees as exempt or non-exempt has become increasingly critical since massive awards started appearing against companies who misclassified employees as exempt and did not pay them overtime. A California jury recently ordered an insurance company to pay more than $90 million in back overtime for misclassifying claims adjusters.

Safety and OSHA Training

Traditionally organizations initiate this type of training because a poor safety record results in heavy penalties for non-compliance and higher costs of workers’ compensation insurance. In some states, such as California, organizations must also comply with mandated written Injury and Illness Prevention Program (IIPP).

Training plays an important role in the overall safety process. Once again, supervisors and managers must be aware of the laws and the cost of noncompliance They need to understand the importance of enforcing safety rules and how to conduct area inspections to improve safety. Management is responsible for conducting investigations of incidents that occur and make immediate changes to prevent further injuries. Also, training must be done at the employee level to fulfill OSHA requirements.


Training in the above areas makes good business sense, since preventing legal problems is very cost effective. However, if a problem occurs, the training provided can also be part of a defensive action, showing that the organization was acting in good faith.

In addition, promoting tolerance, fairness, and a safe working environment are positive values that all employees can relate to, adding to overall workforce morale and productivity.

Eric L. Herzog, Ph.D.
Eric L. Herzog, Ph.D.,

Dr. Herzog has 20+ years experience as a consultant and educator in structural and operational change, strategic planning, team building, productivity and executive development.