PAGE 18 / NATIONAL CLOTHESLINE / JULY, 2019 KEEPITLEGAL Beware the untrained supervisor BYFRANKKOLLMAN E mployers sometimes for- get that they are respon- sible for the behavior of their supervisors. Even when prompt action is taken to correct a supervisor's mistake, it may be too late for the employer to avoid liability under a variety of laws, includ- ing labor and employment. For example, an OSHA fine could turn on whether the per- son violating a safety rule was an employee or a supervisor. Further, a stray remark by a su- pervisor can be the difference between winning and losing a discrimination case. Frequently, employees are promoted based on their skills as mechanics, production em- ployees, salespeople, clerical employees, or administrators. Putting out product, doing construction work, selling service contracts, entering pay- roll, and preparing budgets do not train individuals to be good supervisors. The net result of a promo- tion of a great employee can often be (1) the loss of a great employee and (2) the addition of an inadequate supervisor. Very few people are promoted because of their apparent su- pervisory skills. While some people are not suited to management (I still hate my boss from a summer job nearly 50 years ago), most great employees, if properly trained, can become good to great supervisors. Promotion without training, however, is like giving a supervisor a dan- gerous weapon to put you out of business. Who needs wage and hour problems, discrimi- nation lawsuits, employee grievances, lost productivity, and constant turmoil? How many experienced su- pervisors, much less new ones, would know what to do in the following situations: 1. An employee insists that he does not want to be paid overtime for the extra time he spends redoing work he per- formed poorly. She is willing to sign a waiver stating that it is her idea not to get paid. As an alternative, she asks if he can work through lunch. 2. An opening in the service department is created. An African-American employee asks to be transferred, but you think a particular white em- ployee has a better personality for service. The white em- ployee expresses no interest in the transfer. 3. It snows on a Thursday, and you close the store at 3 p.m. to allow employees to get home before the roads are im- passable. You decide to pay employees for the day. Three of your employees normally leave at 4:30, rather than 5. They ask to leave at 2:30, or be paid a half hour of overtime. 4. An employee puts a sign on the bulletin board that says: “Age Discrimination is Against the Law.” 5. A new counter employee dresses provocatively. She hears from one employee that some employees in the plant have been talking about how “hot” she is. She tells you it bothers her knowing that they talk about her, but she does not want you to do anything. She says she quit her last job be- cause she had problems with the way the manager “glared” at her. That’s why she filed a lawsuit against him. 6. A new employee an- nounces that she is pregnant and is due in four months. She wants to know whether her job will be open when she returns from maternity leave. 7. John tells his coworkers that he has received a raise, and it causes morale problems. You need to prevent this kind of fallout in the future. 8. Sally tells you that she has three disabilities: depression, diabetes, and kleptomania. She says she will need to report to work late several days a week, has to have three breaks a day to administer insulin and eat some carbohydrates, and prob- ably will steal worthless trin- kets from people’s lockers now and again. 9. An exempt (from over- time), salaried employee starts coming in late every day, and leaves early two days a week. He says he has a drug addic- tion under treatment that will require him to keep this sched- ule for the next 18 weeks. All of these are real prob- lems, and there are real, prac- tical solutions. But would a typical new supervisor know what to do? There are five areas that need to be covered in supervi- sor training. A training pro- gram, regardless of its length, should cover these topics: Federal, state, and local laws. State and local laws can be even more important that federal law. Company policies, espe- cially if there is a union con- tract. How to interact with, super- vise, and motivate employees. Writing human resources documents. Problem solving, such as solving the problems detailed above. At a bare minimum, two to four hours would be needed to touch on these topics. Of course, training supervi- sors costs money and time. That is the main reason why employers take the “sink or swim” approach for supervi- sors, rather than give them training. Nevertheless, man- agers or company officials can be “trained to train” new su- pervisors, drastically reducing the expense. Labor and employment laws get more complicated each year. Further, employees are more and more inclined to sue, where in the past they merely looked for other work. If a supervisor mishandles a promotion, termination, salary issue, or leave request, it could cost thousands of dol- lars to defend, even if the su- pervisor was not motivated by illegal reasons. Labor and em- ployment laws are too compli- cated for the average supervi- sor to administer without some help. If it is worthwhile to have “orientation” for new hires, it is worthwhile to orient new managers. In the long run, the cost will be far exceeded by the benefit. Promotion without training is like giving a supervisor a dangerous weapon to put you out of business. To learn more, see the Index of Advertisers on page 38 or visit Frank Kollman is a partner in the law firm of Kollman & Saucier, PA, in Baltimore, MD. He can be reached by phone at (410) 727- 4300 or fax (410) 727-4391. His firm’s web site can be found at It has ar- ticles, sample policies, news and other information on em- ployee/employer relations. RIVER ROAD CLEANERS in Keizer, OR, purchased a Unisec MS-402NE cleaning machine through J. Park Inc. Plant owner Mr. Park is pictured with Mr. Park of J. Park Inc.