Effective training of managers and employees at all levels of an organization is an essential element of any anti-retaliation program. Training provides management and employees with the knowledge, skills and tools they need to recognize, report, prevent and/or properly address retaliation and potential violations of the law. Training should be tailored to teach workers and managers about the specific federal whistleblower protection laws and company policies that apply to them, employees’ rights under the laws, how employees can exercise their rights using available internal and external protection programs, and the organizational benefits of such programs. Managers should learn these concepts as well as related skills, behaviors, and obligations to act.
Anti-retaliation training for employees, at a minimum, should include coverage of:
- Relevant laws and regulations.
- An explanation of the employer’s commitment to creating a culture of legal compliance, addressing concerns from all employees, and complying with its code of ethics, including prohibitions on retaliation.
- Employees’ rights and obligations, if any, to report potential hazards and violations of the law externally, regardless of whether the employee first reported the violation to the employer.
- Statutory rights to be protected from retaliation for reporting potential violations or concerns.
- The elements of the employer’s anti-retaliation program.
- What constitutes retaliation, including actions such as firing or laying off, demoting, denying overtime or promotion, disciplining, denying benefits, failure to hire or rehire, reducing pay or hours and making false accusations of poor performance.
In addition to the employee training topics described above, anti-retaliation training for managers should include, at a minimum:
- Skills for defusing conflict, problem solving, and stopping retaliation.
- How to respond to a report of a workplace concern while protecting an employee’s confidentiality and without engaging or appearing to engage in retaliation.
- How to separate annoying or inappropriate behavior from the concern itself.
- Consequences for managers who fail to follow anti-retaliation policies or respond to concerns inappropriately.
- How to recognize that an employee believes there has been retaliation, when employers are required to act, and the potential legal consequences the employer and the manager face for inaction.
- Other issues specific to the employer.
Employers should create a process for staying up to date on changes to anti-retaliation laws and regulations and update their training and policies accordingly. Refresher training should be conducted on a regular basis and as needed. Concepts from the training should not only be discussed during the designated training sessions, but should be reinforced frequently using other types of communications in order to make it part of the workplace culture.