When you supervise university employees, you do so as an agent of Wittenberg University, and, for the most part, Wittenberg will be responsible for the actions you take. As such, supervision of employees requires that you thoroughly understand employees' rights both under the law, under university policy and by employee classification. For example, if you supervise members of the hourly staff, you are responsible for knowing and understanding university policies and procedures specific to these individuals.
The following highlights some of the most important responsibilities of a supervisor in the area of employment law:
Supervisors are responsible for attempting to settle a problem informally as soon as it comes to his or her attention. The university has established both informal and formal conflict resolution procedures for its staff members. These informal procedures recommend that staff members first talk directly with the involved person to try to resolve the issue. If this conversation does not yield satisfactory results or if the staff member is uncomfortable with this approach, it is recommended that the staff member consult the immediate supervisor. The director of human resources is available to assist you with conflict resolution.
Supervisors are responsible for recognizing when a request for accommodation, under the ADA, has been made and for reporting the request to Human Resources. When an individual decides to request accommodation, the individual or his/her representative must let the supervisor know that a change is needed because of a medical condition. To request accommodation, an individual may use "plain English" and need not mention the ADA or use the phrase "reasonable accommodation."
Supervisors have a responsibility for keeping the work environment free of discrimination and harassment, sexual or otherwise. Any supervisor who becomes aware of an incident of harassment or discrimination, whether by witnessing the incident or being told of it, must report it to the director of human resources.
Supervisors have a responsibility to treat staff fairly and equitably. This includes insuring that staff receive adequate training; adequate supervision, suitable equipment; and ensuring that staff are made aware of the job expectations and standards.
Supervisors are responsible for ensuring that payroll is informed when a staff member is on sick leave for more than 5 working days. Staff who are out sick for more than 5 working days are required to provide a physician's release before returning to work. The time for consecutive absences in excess of 5 days is counted as FMLA leave.
Supervisors are responsible for signing and approving time sheets. These sheets serve as the university's legal record of an employee's hours at work. By approving a time sheet, you are verifying the accuracy of the hours worked and the recorded paid leaves. Staff should record actual hours worked.
Supervisors are responsible for approving and monitoring overtime hours. Under overtime law, an employer must pay each nonexempt employee overtime, in the amount of one-and-one-half times the employee's regular rate, for hours worked more than 40 hours a work week. By law, employees can neither waive their right to be compensated for overtime hours worked nor agree to a lower overtime rate.
Supervisors are responsible for approving the use of paid-time-off and for assuring that it is used in accordance with federal law. The term paid-time-off refers to giving staff paid time off instead of paying them monetary overtime. Paid-time-off is sometimes called comp. time; however, federal law restricts the use of comp. time to governmental agencies. Although paid-time-off is similar in nature, it is different in the fact that paid-time-off must be used in the same pay period as it is earned.
Each of these policies is in some way governed by one of the following employment laws. In order to be an effective supervisor, you need to have a basic familiarity with these primary laws and regulations that affect employment.
1. Civil Rights Act and Equal Employment Opportunity Act
Among other purposes, the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964 was intended by Congress to enforce the constitutional rights of all citizens. In essence these laws prohibit job discrimination based on a number of "suspect" causes such as race, color, religion, sex or national origin. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) conducts investigations for any related grievance charge.
2. The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)
This federal law establishes minimum wage, equal pay, overtime pay and child labor standards, and requires certain employer record-keeping.
3. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
An employer is responsible for making whatever "reasonable accommodations" are necessary for otherwise qualified disabled individuals to be able to perform the essential functions of the job. To have a claim under the ADA, an employee or prospective employee with a disability must be able to perform the essential functions of the job with reasonable proficiency.
4. Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)
FMLA is a federal law intended to provide employees with extended unpaid* leave opportunities for childbirth, childcare and serious illnesses. In many cases, Wittenberg's policies are more generous than those outlined by the FMLA.
Many other federal, state, and local laws and regulations have an impact on the employer-employee relationship and, accordingly, may govern your actions as a supervisor. More information is printed in the supervisor section of the Administrative Manual. If you do not have a current copy of this manual or the university's Hourly Staff Manual, you can refer to them online or request a copy from the Human Resources department.
If you have any questions about the legality of your actions, please seek assistance from the vice-president or provost of your area or from the director of human resources before you act.
Careful planing and implementation of university policies may prevent potential lawsuits.