Our onsite interactive employment-related training courses are best described by one of Sherman Law Corporation’s clients as the “gift that keeps on giving back” to California employers.
While the state of California mandates certain training on various laws, most affected employers elect inexpensive generic on-line training courses that employees treat like on-line traffic school -- doing whatever it takes to game the computer to print out a certificate of completion. You can only imagine how this plays out for the employer at trial, when the plaintiff's attorney introduces to the jury the cost and content of the generic on-line course.
The most under-utilized, cost-effective method to improve compliance, increase pre-litigation resolution of employment-related disputes, and enhance an employer’s defenses, is to retain Sherman Law Corporation to customize training programs for your workplace.
The Unspoken Costs to the Employer of On-Line Training Programs
While studies have long shown that we all learn best by doing, the vast majority of training sessions resemble a Peanuts cartoon. Charlie Brown is sitting at his desk staring into space while the teacher drones on with the words, “wah, wah, wah" hang over Charlie Brown's head as he day dreams. Online training programs often have the same effect because they are too generic and fail to connect at all, with the participants. Recognizing this, the Fair Employment and Housing Commission passed several amendments to the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) in April 2016 expanding employers' training obligations (limited to employers with 50 or more employees), however, they continue to fall short by still allowing webinars and on-line courses. Checking all electronic devices at the door for a two hour in-person interactive session is the only effective way to ingrain real life examples of the personal and legal effect of each participant's actions or inactions that may result in:
- Legal Actions Naming Employees and Potential Personal Liability. Only when the participants can relate to a specific situation that has or is likely to occur at their own workplace will the attendees fully understand how their own actions or inactions can result in personal and/or corporate liability, and what is expected of each of them if they learn of such conduct. Likewise, it is equally important for all employees to understand that claims and legal actions can be filed against anyone, even if it is 100% false. Supervisors and executives explicitly need to learn about the vast majority of the lawsuits we have handled that involved nothing more than boorish inappropriate conduct at most or bullying that created an abusive work environment with no evidence based on protected characteristics. Although bullying training is now required by FEHA, our own personal experiences litigating these claims are the best examples to send the message that bullying may not be unlawful, but it is inappropriate and not worth the costs, emotionally, financially and otherwise to defend such claims.
- Uncovering Unreported Claims or Issues Brewing. One of the most significant costs to employers administering generic online training is that it will not uncover any unreported or unknown claims, or significant issues brewing in your workplace that could have been resolved before they escalate further. The FEHA amendments now require that the viewer be able to submit questions and contact the trainer, but it is unlikely to have any effect. Interacting with the trainer for two hours builds up a trust and rapport that encourages participants to raise any issues in the workplace, during and after training, and in our experience has been highly effective.
- Higher Damages awarded to Employee. Juries place greater weight on evidence presented from live training conducted by experienced employment counsel, especially when the complainant was a participant, and all the other participants will testify that the complainant raised no issues at the interactive training, or afterwards when others freely did. Supervisors who participate in generic online training are often ridiculed by opposing counsel at trial when asked about what they retained from training, especially if the materials and/or tutorial fail to address a similar factual scenario that may have prevented the alleged wrongful conduct at issue from occurring at all. On-line programs send a strong message to the jury that the Company did not care about training its supervisors at all, a devastating blow to the employer who is strictly liable for the actions of its supervisors on FEHA claims, for example.
Our Interactive On-Site Training Programs are the Most Cost-Effective Weapons for Employers.
California employment laws are complex; the vast majority of the time, even high level executives simply do not understand the laws, their legal obligations or Company policies that were drafted by others. No one is better equipped to provide an eye-opening, and occasionally frightening depiction of the dangers of non-compliance; whether it is required or by law or not, there is no other more cost-effective weapon for employers.
Because we spend the majority of our time in contentious litigation, the most gratifying part of our law practice is on-site interactive training. First, we partner with employers to customize each training program to address the issues that have or are likely to occur in your workplace. Nothing is more effective than presenting real-life examples from litigated cases where the costs of non-compliance -- 6 figure jury verdicts reported by local papers or 60 minutes- are embedded in participants' minds forever.
Second, mandatory in-person training with an employment attorney is the equivalent of when you were required to go to sunday school as a kid. You dreaded it so much that the only time you engaged at all with the teacher was when s/he did roll call, and only for the limited purpose of marking your physical presence in the classroom each week. Research shows that we only have 60 seconds to captivate and connect with our audience. Whether we are presenting in front of a room filled with disinterested employees, before a despondent judge in a crowded courtroom, or in a high-stakes trial, to a reluctantly-selected jury, we have less than one minute to win over the audience. Opening (and closing) with a bang, we employ visual media and other proven teaching techniques intended to evoke emotional, physical and verbal responses by each participant. Once we establish a connection, we must create a safe place to freely exchange responses, concerns, issues, without judgment, so that everyone in the room is vested in learning best practices for the real-life scenarios which have or are likely to arise at their workplace. No video training module will share with all of your employees the actual litigation process. We stand in the shoes of employees and employers alike from start to finish, sharing the ups and downs experienced by both sides, and the unspoken costs, emotionally, financially and otherwise on all parties, both of whom rarely end litigation feeling like winners. Sherman Law Corporation's on-site interactive training results in:
- Understanding and Retention of Critical Take-Away Lessons by Participants. By actively engaging participants in effective teaching techniques, our participants understand and retain what is expected of them, always erring on the side of reporting and seeking advice before taking actions.
- Less Unreported Legal Claims Internally reported legal claims are undoubtedly less expensive to handle before the employee retains legal counsel. The Company has an opportunity to investigate allegations, make factual findings, and take appropriate corrective action for substantiated claims that when handled right, often resolves the matter, or at the very least, enhances the employer's defenses. Less unreported claims and legal actions is exactly what we prefer.
- Uncovering Unreported, Unknown Issues affecting Relationships, Productivity and/or Morale. Participants are encouraged to raise any employment-related issues in a variety of ways that often times allows the Company to uncover and resolve unknown unreported issues that are affecting relationships, productivity and/or morale in the workplace. After learning of potential personal liability in a safe place, participants in our training sessions are more likely to raise these issues that otherwise may have festered until some sort of legal action ensued.
- Increased Morale, Productivity and Loyalty to the Company. Bringing together employees, one of the most valuable assets to a Company, who often times feel excluded or under-appreciated, delivers an unexpected gift to employers -- increased morale, productivity and a renewed sense of loyalty to the Company. When your employees understand the value to them individually by our training, they are truly grateful to their employers for hiring us to not only protect them individually but to help them navigate the legal quagmires that many of them were unaware even existed before training.
- Enhances Employer’s Defenses. The substantive training materials and fully executed acknowledgements of Company policies, and reaffirmations of compliance by a complainant who never complained is particularly compelling, especially for harassment claims, that may limit or preclude recovery of damages.
Sample Training Programs
We regularly customize our training courses on a variety of employment-related issues, including:
- Introduction of Newly Created/Updated Employee Handbooks, Policies, Procedures, Processes, Agreements, and/or Forms. The manner in which new or updated policies or processes are rolled out by supervisors is just as important as obtaining signed acknowledgments that are placed in employees; personnel files. Legally compliant Company policies are meaningless unless supervisors and personnel charged with implementation and enforcement of human resource issues fully understand the Company’s policies; expected, accepted, prohibited and/or unlawful conduct; and consistently enforce violations in compliance with these policies. Otherwise, if legal action follows, opposing counsel will be prominently display these policies before a jury contending that they are not only worthless, but that the Company is untrustworthy because it knew what was required and either did not care enough to train management to understand and comply with them or even worse, your policies were nothing more than a sham. Participants include human resource personnel, managers and all persons charged with implementing compliance.
- HR 101: A basic training course on basic employment obligations for California employers and best practices for handling common human resource issues. Participants include human resource personnel and/or personnel charged with implementing human resource compliance.
- Supervisor 101: A broad-based training course on supervisors’ basic employment obligations, strict and personal liability, red flag triggers requiring reporting, substantiating all adverse employment actions/issues with a strong emphasis on creating rock-solid documentation. Participants include executives, managers, supervisors, and human resource personnel.
- Hiring 101: A basic hiring course that primarily educates participants on common legal issues associated with hiring. These include, misclassification of independent contractors and salaried exempt employees; the importance of comprehensive written job descriptions; the federal and California credit reporting acts; pre-employment social media searches, testing, and medical examinations; references; lawful interview and employment application inquiries; best practices for documentation of hiring decisions; applicant record-keeping obligations; I-9 compliance; employment offer letters, employment agreements, new hiring packets, required pamphlets and notices, execution of standalone agreements, certifications, waivers, and employee handbook acknowledgements. Participants include human resource personnel, and all managers/ personnel involved in the hiring process.
- Navigating California’s Myriad of Laws Governing Injuries, Illnesses, and Leaves of Absences: Prior to training, we review your Company policies, postings, forms and templates in place regarding the various leaves of absences that you provide and are required by law. We use the updated policies, forms and certifications to teach the key elements under each applicable federal, state and local ordinances that apply to you as a covered employer; any requirements for employee eligibility; types of leave provided; certifications, notices; reporting, return to work, and interaction of the various laws. Participants include human resource personnel and all managers/supervisors.
- AB 1825 Unlawful Harassment, Discrimination, Retaliation and Bullying Training for Supervisors/Rank and File Employees: In 2004, the California legislature passed AB 1825, requiring every employer with 50 or more employees to provide two hours of interactive training and education on harassment, discrimination, and retaliation for all supervisors once every two years. In September 2014, Governor Brown signed AB 2053, requiring that as of January 1, 2015 employers add anti-bullying training into the curriculum, even though there is no new legal protection for bullying. We also provide a one-hour training course for rank-and-file employees only focused on their own conduct and reporting obligations.
- Navigating the Digital Workplace for Supervisors and Rank-and-File Employees: A training course for employees (supervisors separately from rank-and-file employees) on their obligations in connection with the use of Company devices, technology, as well as, the creation, transmission and storage of electronically stored Company information; the Company’s legal obligations as to recordkeeping, protection of confidential information, and preservation of potentially relevant information; the limitations on rights to privacy; email etiquette and prohibited methods of communications; appropriate use of Company-issued and personally owned technology resources and accounts, at work and remotely, including, without limitation, social media, blogs, email, texts, etc., return of information and post-termination obligations.
- Preservation, Collection and E-Discovery Obligations of Electronically Stored Information: This course is highly recommended for all employers because every employer has electronically stored information, but if it is not preserved, archived, reviewed, and collected in a defensible manner, if any type of legal action or audit follows that requires reliance on the electronically stored information, the data, often unintentionally, is lost or cannot be relied upon by the employer. Participants include human resource and IT personnel and all managers/supervisors.
- Hot-Button Employment Topics and Minimizing Employment Liability. This training is focused on the hottest topics in employment law, especially in California. We review recent changes in federal, state and local laws, notable court decisions, jury verdicts, administrative agency statistics and announcements to address the hottest topics and recommend best practices. Participants include human resource personnel and all managers/supervisors.
- Documentation, Documentation, Documentation. This course is highly recommended for all employers, no matter the size or sophistication, because documentation is the single most important duty that supervisors, human resource personnel and executives rarely receive straight A's; i.e., bulletproof documentation that is likely to withstand attack.
Are You Doing Everything You Can to Protect Your Company?
Are you doing everything you can to minimize employment liability and defend costly legal actions? There is no substitute for training by experienced employment litigators who have valuable lessons to share with your management. Contact us today at (213) 341-4417 to discuss customizing training courses for your workforce.