Diversified Insurance Solutions kicked off their 2016 Education Series on Wednesday, February 24th with the eagerly anticipated topic – Top Issues That Keep HR up at Night: Exploring Workplace and Legal Issues of HR Professionals. The event took place at Brookfield’s Westmoor Country Club and began with registration and a continental breakfast before commencing with the program. The speakers for this event were Littler Mendelson, P.C. Shareholder, Jennifer Ciralsky and Associate, Julia Arnold. Littler Mendelson, P.C. is the largest employment and labor law practice globally and has over 70 offices worldwide with more than 1,000 attorneys. Their address consisted of four main parts followed by a Q & A. The topics covered were:
- Conducting Lawful Internal Investigations
- Holding Employees Accountable for Their Conduct and Performance at Work
- Addressing the Toxic Employee
- The Interaction Between the FMLA and the ADA and Handling Complex Accommodation Requests
The first portion of the presentation covered how to properly conduct internal investigations lawfully. Once a complaint is received from one employee about another, conducting a thorough and accurate internal investigation is key. The correct internal investigation process involves several interviews, gathering data, documentation, confidentiality and more. To help employers through this process, Littler provided a useful “Conducting Internal Investigations Reference Materials and Guide”. They also went through several hypothetical scenarios to help attendees determine what situations warrant investigations and then offered strategies to approach these situations.
The next area the speakers focused on was how to hold employees accountable for their performance and conduct. They discussed how critical accurate documentation is and that incomplete or lack of documentation can be the difference between winning and losing a lawsuit. Dates, names, descriptions and details should all be as complete as possible. In a courtroom setting, from a judge or jury’s perspective if something is not in writing then it did not happen.
Then the speakers discussed how to deal with the toxic employee. They offered examples of toxic behavior and strategies on how to handle these situations. They emphasized that when these situations arise, the focus should be on performance and conduct and your organization’s conduct guidelines should be referenced. When confronting the employee, make sure to let them know the impact their conduct is having on their colleagues and overall morale. Make sure to be consistent with your organization’s discipline policy and always make sure to accurately document all of these interactions.
The last thing Jennifer and Julia covered was how the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) interact with each other along with complex accommodation issues. FMLA offers unpaid, job-protected leave up to 12 workweeks in a 12 month period. The difference between FMLA and ADA is that FMLA protects an employee’s job security if they are unable to perform the essential functions of their position, while the ADA protects job security of an employee who can perform their essential job functions with or without a reasonable accommodation. They offered several examples of court cases where employers failed to provide a reasonable accommodation to an injured or disabled employee, thus losing the case when it was brought to trial.
After their presentation, Jennifer and Julia took questions from the audience. Many of the attendees had questions concerning unique situations they are facing within their organization and the presenters did their best to help guide them in the right direction. The volume of questions and interaction from the audience demonstrated there are a lot of tough situations that HR professionals face in today’s world.
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