EMPLOYERS SHOULD TRAIN MANAGERS TO COMPLY WITH DISCRIMINATION AND HARASSMENT LAWS
May 30, 2002
By: David B. Pogrund
Two recent U.S. Court of Appeals decisions created a new burden upon employers to train Managers to comply with laws prohibiting Employment Discrimination and Harassment based on race, sex, age, religion, etc. These Courts clearly establish the principle that an Employer must do more than rely on “Boiler Plate” posters, notices, and handbooks which describe illegal discrimination, harassment and procedures for filing grievances.
In one of the cases, the Court explained that the availability of punitive damages in a discrimination case or harassment case depends on the employers intent or reckless indifference, and that an employer may not be liable for the conduct of irresponsible managers where the managers actions “are contrary to the employer’s good faith, efforts to comply” with the law.
In the Chicago case of Mathis v. Phillip’s Chevrolet Inc., (7th Circuit. 2001) the United States Court of Appeals in Chicago ruled that the Employer’s failure to train it’s Managers not to discriminate based on age, supported the juror’s imposition of exemplary (i.e. double) damages. In that case, the Employer demonstrated that it had a written policy against discrimination; however, the Court of Appeals ruled that since the company made “no effort to train hiring Managers about the Age Discrimination Laws shows that the Employer was indifferent to whether its Managers followed that law.”
In an effort to insure that our clients comply with these recent US Court of Appeals decisions, we highly recommend that every company have at least one training session with it’s Managers to educate them about the Discrimination Laws to avoid liability and additional damages from an employee’s discrimination or harassment claim.