Courts Mandate Training For Managers And Supervisors

August 2006, Auto Dealer Today - WebXclusive

by Ron Smith - Also by this author

It has long been the view among attorneys and employer consultants that supervisor training for employers is a must. Now, courts are beginning to weigh-in on that issue. In a recent 7th Circuit Court of Appeals case out of Chicago, the federal court essentially "fined" an employer $50,000.00 for not providing supervisory training. Interestingly enough, the case involved an automobile dealership’s refusal to hire a sales applicant in his late fifties. That applicant had filed EEOC charges and discrimination lawsuits on at least six different occasions against other dealerships in the Greater Chicago area. The dealership’s general manager had blundered by making oral statements and notations on the application indicating the individual’s age in a section of the application that he admittedly used to make notes of information he considered relevant to his hiring decision. Another manager testified that he looked for "bright, young, aggressive" applicants. In his testimony, the general manager stated that he had no idea that it was against the law to discriminate against hiring due to age. The rejected applicant was awarded Fifty Thousand Dollars in compensatory damages, plus an amount for attorney fees, plus an additional $50,000.00 liquidated damages (fine) for the dealership’s failure to provide training. As the Court put it, "leaving managers with hiring authority in ignorance of the basic features of the discrimination laws is an extraordinary mistake. A jury can find that such an extraordinary mistake amounts to reckless indifference."
Federal anti-discrimination statutes have their genesis in the Civil Rights Act of 1964. That act made it illegal to discriminate in hiring or any other aspect of wages, hours and working conditions, because of an employee’s race, gender, religion or national origin. Since that time, Congress has engrafted a number of other anti-discriminatory statutes into, onto and around the 1964 "motherlode". These include discrimination because of age, pregnancy, polygraph, restrictions, and some other minor areas. The federal courts have added to gender discrimination by including discrimination because of sexual harassment. Congress then added discrimination because of disabilities in the 1992 Americans With Disabilities Act.
Basic enforcement of most of these laws come through the federal agency known as the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The EEOC has grown over the years and has developed regulations for different statutes, as well as a number of EEOC decisions, opinions and advisory memos dealing with these employment issues.
At a recent conference of federal judges, one of the judges, in his prepared remarks, stated that in his jurisdiction employment cases counted for over one-half of all the cases filed. Violation of any of these statutes can result in the payment of back wages, damages, attorney fees and judgments into the hundreds of thousands of dollars or millions of dollars against an employer. In the past three years alone, automobile dealerships in different areas of the country have been hit with judgments in the $300,000.00 -$500,000.00 range. We are talking about large potential dollar exposure.
How much exposure do you have in your dealership? Are your supervisors and managers trained or are you letting them put you at risk? Do you have enough insurance coverage for that exposure?

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