Neglecting to train and educate managers and supervisors ranks among the most detrimental mistakes a company can make. This oversight not only poses significant risks but also invites potentially costly repercussions. Investing in the training of managers is paramount to mitigating these risks effectively.

Mistakes are inevitable in any professional setting, but certain errors made by managers can have dire implications for a company. Below are several examples of manager mistakes that can serve as cautionary tales for businesses aiming to steer clear of similar pitfalls.

Failure to Document Employee Performance

Effective documentation serves as a vital tool for employers when making crucial employment decisions. Unfortunately, many managers fall short in accurately documenting employee performance, if they document at all. It’s imperative for managers to grasp the significance of meticulous performance documentation.

Consider the case of Bob and Phil: Bob became concerned of Phil’s performance within the first year of employment. Phil was slacking off and wasn’t meeting his sales goals. Nevertheless, when annual performance reviews came around — Phil received a glowing review. Phil’s performance didn’t improve in the second year. That didn’t stop Bob from praising Phil in an email to company executives. Nevertheless, one month later, Bob fired Phil for failing to perform to standards. As you can imagine, that was news to Phil, who brought suit.

We get it — no one likes being the bearer of bad news. However, avoiding the problem now only leads to bigger problems later. Honest and thorough documentation of performance issues, along with implemented corrective measures, can avert such issues.

Noncompliance with Overtime Pay

Under both federal and state law, nonexempt employees must be compensated for all hours worked, including overtime. Ensuring both employees and managers comprehend this requirement is essential to avoid legal repercussions.

Take Sally’s scenario: Sally is one of your nonexempt employees. She is an excellent employee, willing to go above and beyond. Sally always responds to emails, even if it is outside office hours. Sally takes business calls during her commute to and from the office each day. Sally will stay late to finish a project, just to make sure it gets completed and she meets or exceeds every deadline. Sally never asked or expected overtime pay for any of this. Unfortunately for you, her co-worker Bob, who found himself in the same boat as Sally, but without Sally’s same enthusiasm, filed a lawsuit seeking damages, back pay, and attorneys fees for himself as well as a large group of fellow employees, including Sally.

If you do not want to pay your workers overtime, don’t allow them to work in excess of 40 hours in a week or 8 hours in a day, whichever is applicable. That includes checking emails, making business-related phone calls, or any other work when employees are off-the-clock. Make sure your workers are tracking their time appropriately and if any overtime is worked, that you are paying your employees accordingly.

Misguided Paternalism in Decision-Making

Empowering employees involves providing flexibility. Making assumptions about employees’ aspirations or opportunities can inadvertently lead to legal issues.

Consider: XYZ Company prides itself on supporting women in the workplace, which included providing flexibility with leave and other benefits. However, XYZ’s chief operating officer, Sally, often complained about the impact of their generous leave policies on the business. Donna, who was responsible for selecting a leader for an upcoming project, shared this same outlook. During a team meeting, Donna suggested that some of the women in the group might not be interested in the opportunity because they had children and wouldn’t be able to commit to additional time away from them. Donna’s assumption about female employees’ priorities backfired, resulting in accusations of unfair treatment and subsequent legal action.

It is important that your supervisors understand that their decisions need to be based on who is the best candidate, considering non-personal factors.

Playing Favorites

While personal preferences are natural, supervisors must not allow them to influence their treatment of employees. Favoritism can lead to allegations of discrimination and unfair treatment, as exemplified by John and Harry’s case.

John promoted Harry, a good employee and trusted friend, to a supervisory position. John often talked openly with Harry about his misgivings with other employees. Based on these conversation, Harry began to take a more stern approach with the employees that John often talked to him about. One of these employees, Phil, felt that he was being disciplined and treated differently than other employees for the same conduct and filed a claim of discrimination with the EEOC. When interviewed by the EEOC, Harry admitted to treating Phil differently based on John’s comments.

Supervisors must prioritize objective evaluation of employee performance, ensuring fairness and equal treatment across the board.

Compliance Miscalculations

Employers often overlook potential legal implications by focusing solely on specific labor and employment laws. However, failure to consider all relevant regulations can result in costly mistakes, as demonstrated by Joan and Sally’s situation.

Sally filed a claim against her employer, Joan, claiming that she was fired due to her health. Joan knew that Sally wasn’t eligible for FMLA when she terminated Sally for attendance issues and believed that she was in the clear. Unfortunately, as her attorney advised her, Sally may have a claim under the ADA as it did not appear that Sally’s supervisor or human resources had tried to accommodate her before terminating her.

Thoroughly assessing all potential risk areas before taking action, and seeking external counsel when necessary, can help prevent legal complications.

Failure to Accommodate

Ignoring opportunities for reasonable accommodations can lead to legal repercussions, as seen in Donna’s case. Engaging in the interactive process to explore accommodation options is crucial to avoid ADA violations and associated lawsuits.

Donna worked as a hairdresser at a nursing home and routinely would transport residents in wheelchairs to and from the salon to do their hair. After undergoing surgery, Donna had a permanent pushing restriction of 50 pounds–meaning pushing residents in wheelchairs would no longer be feasible. Donna suggested having someone assist her by pushing the wheelchair-bound residents to the salon. Her employer summarily rejected the idea and refused to restructure her job duties. Donna quit and brought suit alleging ADA violations.

Don’t find yourself in hot water because a supervisor said no to an accommodation without engaging in the interactive process. You may not be able to make an accommodation, but you should take the time to consider the accommodation before dismissing it.

Ignoring Bullying

Ignoring instances of workplace bullying can exacerbate the issue and expose the company to legal liabilities, regardless of whether it constitutes unlawful harassment.

ABC Company conducted annual training on harassment and it’s anti-harassment policy. The training neglected to cover bullying because leadership didn’t believe it was a legal issue, especially when it isn’t directed at any protected classes or is directed at everyone (i.e. the equal opportunity offender). An employee filed suit alleging abuse and harassment by his manager. The company did not fair well.

Managers must be trained to recognize and address bullying promptly, fostering a positive and respectful work environment. Even if bullying doesn’t result in a claim being filled against the company, what company wants to be known for having that type of work environment?

In conclusion, proactive training and education for managers and supervisors are indispensable in avoiding costly mistakes and mitigating legal risks in the workplace. By prioritizing compliance, fairness, and effective communication, businesses can safeguard their reputation while fostering a conducive work environment for all employees.