As I discussed in my last blog, recent legislation establishes that managers can now be held personally liable for not following the law, even if they do so unintentionally. Two key areas where this has played out in court are hostile work environments and wage and hour violations.
Managers are being held to a much higher standard.
This means that business owners and senior leaders must be sure they understand and follow the laws, and they must also ensure that their managers and supervisors understand and follow the laws. Some ways to accomplish this are through management training, effective communication, and/or one-on-one coaching.
In the wake of the #MeToo Movement and other workplace harassment situations, the threshold for acceptable behavior has been revised. In the past, plaintiffs had to show a pattern of behavior for a workplace to be deemed a hostile work environment. Today it can be considered as such based on one or two incidents. “But we’ve always had an informal, joking environment,” is not an acceptable excuse.
Managers need to pay attention to behaviors that may be offensive to some and stop them before they become part of the culture. If not, they could be held personally liable for creating a hostile environment. Encourage managers to periodically gauge team interactions and speak with individuals to proactively identify any issues and to promote a positive culture.
Also, senior leadership and all managers and supervisors should model the appropriate behavior they expect from others.
In the past it was very rare for a manager to be named in a wage and hour dispute. Not so today. California’s Labor Code 558.1 states that “a company’s owners, directors, officers and even managing agents can be held personally liable for wage and hour violations.” It’s not enough to say that not following the law was unintentional, or a mere oversight.
If you need help ensuring that you are legally compliant, or in coaching managers around any of these issues, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.