While companies defend themselves against massive wage and hour actions—often arising from seemingly benign and well-accepted practices—the larger issue is this: How do we prevent wage and hour claims from continuing to generate costly and time-consuming litigation?
Fair Labor Standards Act training is a major defensive weapon in the arsenal of employers seeking to minimize the risk of wage and hour claims. But to work, it must address the kinds of issues that encourage managers and employees to get help and change behaviors.
In my view, there are eight critical components of an effective FLSA training program designed to communicate information, prompt questions and change behavior.
• Learning must start at employment. The best way to stop a problem is to make sure it never develops. Wage and hour training courses should include an orientation component that can be briefly delivered to managers and employees as they assume their responsibilities and before they get into patterns that are harder to change.
• Cover the FLSA basics. What managers do every day to ensure compliance with FLSA practices determines liability. Yet, giving managers information isn’t enough because wage and hour laws have many wrinkles, exceptions and quirks. Companies must educate their managers about basic legal provisions that apply to pay practices, job classifications and everyday workplace practices.
• Provide classroom training for managers. A short classroom learning experience is absolutely essential for managers. In our work with clients, we’ve seen firsthand how managers benefit from the opportunity to ask questions about their understanding of the law and from knowing that they have a responsibility to do so going forward.
• Employees are part of the solution. The wage and hour problem can’t be solved just by managerial action alone. Employees need to know the basics of FLSA coverage and learn about their responsibility to ask questions and go for help. When you provide FLSA online and orientation training for employees, you can ensure employees know the basics before problems surface and daily patterns become engrained.
• Don’t forget to explain the “why.” Your FLSA training should explain why compliance with your policies and the law matters to the organization and to managers and employees.
• Get help. If there’s one mantra that your managers and employees should come away with after training, it’s this: Get help. Your training should provide enough grounding about the complexities of the law so participants know when to ask questions and go for help.
• Change workplace practices. Unless organizations recognize that they must also change workplace practices to ensure compliance with the law, wage and hour will continue to be a lucrative legal practice niche for lawyers and a costly, yet avoidable expense for employers.
• Reinforce learning and compliance. One-time learning isn’t enough to keep principles and practices alive and fresh for busy leaders. Patterns of behavior must be changed permanently, which requires addressing how people act every day. To reinforce learning, online refreshers can periodically remind managers about key provisions and help them maintain FLSA compliance as part of their daily responsibilities.
To understand why employers need to address wage and hour issues, one need only look at the parallels found in the Civil Rights Act of 1964 . While we’ve addressed many of the most obvious and blatant violations through the same kind of class-based violations now being launched under the FLSA, discrimination lawsuits are still being filed and cases won. That’s because communicating legal knowledge isn’t enough. Instead, it is everyday workplace behavior that ultimately must change.
The irony of this issue is that the FLSA has been in existence for 72 years. Many of these issues are arising largely because generally ignored provisions of the law have only recently been recognized as lucrative risk opportunities.
Wage and hour training must simply and quickly communicate to managers and employees the legal basics of the FLSA while presenting the information in an engaging way that matters to participants. In order for the training to stick, it must focus on identifying problem behaviors to avoid and how to correct them. This proven approach can help reduce wage and hour risks, limit claims and stop this issue from becoming a major litigation distraction to your organization.
Stephen Paskoff is president and CEO of Atlanta-based ELI Inc., a provider of ethics and compliance learning solutions. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.