“Legal training for HR consultants is really important because in employment law, there are very minor details that, if missed, can create massive legal liability for employers,” said Glenn Pelster, Director of Employers Council’s Arizona and Utah offices.
Glenn came to the council straight out of the University of Arizona law school in 2013. He always knew he wanted to practice employment and labor law and he loved working with the council’s members. After a five year break to run his own practice in Ogallala, Nebraska, Glenn returned to Employers Council’s Arizona office in 2020. In 2021, he became the director of both the Arizona and Utah regions.
Glenn said that complying with employment law often requires navigating complex processes and applying ambiguous rules. Understanding how the more complex laws (including leave laws such as ADA, FMLA, and sick leave; discrimination statutes; and wage laws like FLSA) apply to real world fact patterns can take years to master. One of the biggest issues Glenn sees is that when someone doesn’t fully understand these laws, they often take action that creates legal liability before they think to contact Employers Council.
Good training courses, like those offered by Employers Council, go beyond just explaining the law; they also walk you through real-life scenarios. “The goal is that you leave the training with at least a basic understanding of what the law means, how to apply it in the real world, and what liability your organization can face if things go awry,” Glenn said. He encourages members to always call Employers Council for a legal gut check or for help with unfamiliar or complex employment law issues. But the first step should always be investing in consistent legal training for HR professionals and managers and supervisors.
Why? Here are six big benefits that come from prioritizing employment and labor law training for the non-attorneys in your organization:
1. Navigate employment law issues competently
Yes, HR professionals can contact Employers Council for help every time they run into a question or issue with quickly changing employment and labor laws. But the council is here not only to assist with in-the-moment legal challenges, but to help members prevent them before they happen. Consider quality legal training your first defense against risk.
“You can take trainings and up your level of competencies in those areas” Glenn said, “so you feel comfortable when navigating those difficult legal issues.”
2. Explain your decisions and recommendations to leaders with confidence
“One of the issues that HR professionals run into is that they not only have to do what’s right for the organization to be legal and compliant, but they also have to be confident enough to be able to explain it to other people and convince other stakeholders that it is the right course of action,” said Glenn.
Sometimes the correct actions from a legal perspective can look counterintuitive without context. For example, ADA compliance may require offering a sick employee an unpaid leave accommodation. HR professionals may face internal pressures to fire the employee and get someone else on board quickly—at great legal risk.
“If they’re not comfortable with the law, they can fall to that pressure,” Glenn said, “when realistically they need to comply with that statute and offer accommodation.”
3. Increase your HR department’s capacity quickly
Making regular employment law learning part of your HR department’s own training and development strategy ensures that you’re ready to handle any issue that might arise.
“Training allows you to increase the competency level of a newer HR employee much quicker,” Glenn said. “If you take somebody who is entering the HR space without a lot of experience, training allows you to increase your capacity…without waiting for those [legal] issues to appear for them to get experience.”
4. Meet your organization’s obligations to provide a safe, equitable workplace
“In today’s day and age, if you’re not conducting some level of all-employee harassment and discrimination training — and additional, specialized training for managers and supervisors — you’re really not even checking that box to cover your obligations,” said Glenn. “An organization that has more than 24 employees should be doing that on a bi-annual or annual basis.”
In addition, your industry may come with its own specific legal concerns. For example, if your employees perform physical labor, it’s especially important to understand the finer details of workers’ compensation, ADA and FMLA laws. Legal training should support the needs and risks of your particular situation.
5. Help managers and supervisors recognize legal risks
Managers and supervisors are the front-line of your organization: In the eyes of the law, actions they take are considered actions taken by your company. If your managers and supervisors don’t know what red-flags to look for, they are very likely taking action that creates legal liability without even bringing it to HR’s attention. That’s why legal training for employees in leadership positions is so important. From performance documentation to wage and hour requirements, employment law courses can help set managers and supervisors up to succeed — and help protect the organization as a whole.
“The risk associated with putting that training off can be several hundred thousand dollars,” Glenn said, cautioning organizations who might be tempted to slash their training budgets in a tough economy. “They can be creating much more massive and uncontrollable liability by failing to incorporate that [training] into their organization.”
6. Prepare for growth
Finally, legal training can help soothe some of the growing pains associated with expanding your business. FMLA and Wage and Hour Law are two of the common stress points for organizations adding headcount. Preemptive training can help your organization thrive.
“A lot of laws kick in when you hit a certain number of employees,” Glenn said. “It’s important to have a training plan in place to make sure that employees, managers and supervisors are equipped for that growth.”
Ready to increase your — and your employees’ — employment law knowledge? Browse Employers Council’s catalog of virtual, in-person and on-demand legal courses.