The Human Resource: Supervisors protect you from liability

Litigation can destroy a company’s reputation, customer loyalty, market confidence, employee retention, and produce a host of other negative results. Internal compliance failures may not be as publicly exposed, but they too can damage trust with employees and expose the business to risk.

Rarely, if ever, does organizational leadership intend to break the law, set out to do wrong, or have negative intentions for their workforce and applicants to their company. So, if leadership wants nothing but the best for their business, why is there such a significant amount of employment litigation in the courts today? Why are audits resulting in findings of non-compliance? Why is the Department of Labor successful in finding overtime failures in organizations? I will tell you why in a nutshell – the vision, mission, and commitment of the leadership does not always get translated into the actions and behaviors of the managers and supervisors executing the oversight of the employees. Hence, supervisors can become the catalyst or root cause of many of these problems because of poor training on employment law and human resource topics such as the Family Medical Leave Act.

FMLA Management

Employers face tight timelines on issuing, reviewing, and approving FMLA for their workforce. At times, poor processes for employee call outs place the line supervisor in a position to receive medical related information from the employee, which is ill advised. The supervisor also becomes responsible for recognizing if they have an obligation and responsibility to educate and inform / provide FMLA protection to the employee they manage based on the information they obtained during the call out exchange or a discussion at work about time off needs. This can very easily fall through the cracks placing the employer at risk of non-compliance with FMLA.

In other instances, supervisors do not understand enough about the federal regulations to discern when it is, and when it is not appropriate to discipline an employee for performance or conduct violations when they are approved for FMLA. Particularly, supervisors become unclear when their staff has approved intermittent FMLA for self or Family Member and is failing to perform their job when at work, or demonstrates a policy or conduct violation, what they can do.

Taking the wrong path by the supervisor can result in an employee, or regulatory agency, believing the employer discriminated against the employee based on their use of FMLA, and you can just hope it doesn’t turn into an EEOC / OFCCP charge of discrimination as well. Failing to initiate the FMLA process with an employee and complying with the time requirements during the process can also put the employer at risk. Sometimes more critical for the employer is these activities damage morale, establishes an undesirable culture, and is incongruent with the expectations of the organizational leadership.


This information reinforces the reality that business leaders do not set their vision, mission, and goals around negative intentions, and they hope each day that the workforce they have hired, specifically their managers and supervisor, can emulate the behaviors and actions that support the business goals.

It is wise to perform periodic employment law related training to this segment of the workforce. If you have internal human resource professionals in your organization, partner with them to build a repeatable and sustainable training program on these human resource related business activities so that you can provide these managers and supervisors the tools, resources, and support to make appropriate decisions and demonstrate compliant actions when carrying out their responsibilities related to critical activities in the workplace.

About Warren Cook

Warren is the President and co-founder of SymbianceHR and provides strategic oversight for service delivery, business operations, and technical guidance on consulting engagements. He is a human resources subject matter expert with over 25 years of experience as a strategic human resources business partner, project manager, and people leader across private and public sectors organizations. Warren is responsible for the strategic planning of all client consulting engagements from initial needs assessment and compliance review through delivery of customized strategic solutions that meet the client’s business goals. He has a proven track record of providing executive coaching and guidance to business leaders and human resource professionals at all levels including the C-Suite of Fortune 100 companies. Warren is also the Chief Talent Officer and cofounder of SymbianceHiRe, a Symbiance company dedicated to providing direct placement talent acquisition services and temporary and contract staffing solutions to the business community. Warren holds a B.S. in Human Resource Management, an MBA in Project Management, and a M.S. in Industrial and Organizational Psychology. Warren is the author of “Applicant Interview Preparation – Practical Coaching for Today.”



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