The following article was contributed by Wu Castillo, P.C. – A law firm providing advice and representation for California employers.
Members of management must both manage and lead their team. In today’s world where professional relationships easily spill over into the social arena (whether via happy hours or on social media) balancing the day-to-day management of a business with the “soft skills” needed to inspire and lead a team can be tricky. Thus, it is imperative to ensure compliance with employment laws and to lead and inspire a team without crossing the lines of illegal/inappropriate behavior. To this end, employers should develop, and enforce, robust policies that ensure compliance with employment laws.
Here are three key areas for employers and their leaders to focus on:
- Managers should be trained on, and understand, the Employer’s policies prohibiting discrimination, harassment and retaliation in the workplace.
This includes setting forth explicitly the type of behavior that will not be tolerated in the workplace, along with the consequences that will follow should an employee engage in inappropriate behavior. Some employers adopt progressive discipline policies, which provide for a tiered system of discipline that can lead to dismissal. Such a policy should always include language reserving the right to terminate an employee immediately depending on the egregiousness of the behavior the employee engaged in, and in keeping with an at-will employment policy. When feasible, members of management should be trained not only on how they are expected to behave, but also on how to recognize, report and investigate (when appropriate) improper workplace behavior. The key is to prevent inappropriate/illegal behavior when possible, and to take immediate corrective measures when prevention is not possible.
- Managers must remain professional even if friends with subordinates.
Special attention should be paid to management’s interaction with subordinates on social media and outside of the workplace. The line between manager and friend can blur very quickly, and sometimes results in claims of unfair treatment. Thus, it is important for managers to maintain impartiality and treat their subordinates equally. And, it is often recommended that managers should not “friend” subordinates on social media.
- Managers must understand enforce other company policies, like meal and rest period requirements, and overtime laws.
Employers should adopt written wage and hour policies, requiring employees to correctly record all time worked, to prevent “off-the-clock” work, and to ensure compliance with meal and rest period laws. Managers must be careful to never discourage an employee from taking their meal and rest breaks, and should follow-up and counsel employees who violate the policy.
Overall, managers should be on high alert for inappropriate workplace behavior, including ensuring that they themselves don’t engage in behavior that can be misconstrued. As agents of the employer, managers have a duty to act when inappropriate behavior is reported or observed. In California, a pro-employee state, managers risk being found personally liable for failing to act upon and correct certain illegal workplace behavior. The bottom line – lead by example and set the tone for a respectful and professional workplace environment.
DISCLAIMER: Information provided on this website is not legal advice, and it does not create an attorney-client relationship with Wu Castillo, P.C., nor should you act on anything stated in this article without conferring with the Author or other legal counsel regarding your specific situation.