Once your organization has ethics policies and programs in place, don’t forget to follow them with employee training on these policies and programs. It is best practice and could save an organization a tremendous amount of money. There are financial and legal penalties for those organizations that do not conduct training to cover ethics, personnel policies, and legal concerns.
For those organizations with personnel policies related to harassment and discrimination, training is critical to build management and employee understanding and compliance. Without training, additional punitive damages can be awarded in the event of a lawsuit.
For example, according to the Society of Human Resource Management,
“An employer tried to dispute sexual harassment claims by pointing to its written policy prohibiting such harassment. A state appeals court recognized that the policy was handed out to employees when hired. But it also saw that the company did not provide further training to employees on sexual harassment issues and failed to take even minimal steps to post that harassment policy in staff areas; and didn’t periodically schedule employee group conferences to review the policy. The court punished those failures with an award of over $700,000. (Hanley v. Doctors Hospital of Shreveport, LA Ct. App., No. 35,527-CA, 2002)”
We recommend the following article by Rush Nigut, in Business Law, October 10, 2008, “Protect Yourself from Employee Lawsuits When the Economy Tanks”. This article gives practical advice on how an organization can protect itself from employment lawsuits in these difficult times.
This clearly speaks to the point that just having a policy is not enough to protect an organization from damages. The Nigut article argues that the greatest predictor of the growth in employment lawsuits is the national unemployment rate. Given our current downturn, it is more important than ever for organizations to make sure they have personnel and ethics policies, distribute the policies, train their organization on these policies at least annually, have an avenue for grievances (such as an employee hotline), and investigate every complaint.