HR Tip of the Week

Posted on  |  Training and development

Employee Training: What's Required, What's Recommended

To help maintain a safe and productive workplace, employers should adequately train their employees on their obligations under the law and to the company. Employers can develop an effective training program by implementing trainings required by law, as well as trainings that can help employees and supervisors succeed in the workplace. The following is an overview of certain required trainings, and additional recommended trainings that can help promote compliance with a variety of employment obligations.

Sexual Harassment Training:

Several states, including California, Connecticut and Maine, require employers to provide sexual harassment training. Check your state law for specific training requirements, including who must be trained, the frequency in which sexual harassment training must be provided, the required content of the program, and recordkeeping requirements.

Even in states without specific requirements, supervisor and employee training on sexual harassment, along with non-discrimination and anti-retaliation training as discussed below, is a best practice. Many states encourage employers to educate their employees on harassment and discrimination prevention. This type of training can serve to reinforce your company’s commitment to anti-harassment and non-discrimination.

Non-Discrimination and Anti-Retaliation:

It is a recommended best practice that employers conduct non-discrimination and anti-retaliation trainings for all supervisors and employees. These trainings should include information and practical guidance on discrimination and harassment prevention. Trainings should explain that the company will not tolerate discrimination against applicants and employees based on any characteristic that is protected by federal, state, or local law, or company policy.

Employers should also train employees on how to report incidents of discrimination and harassment. Supervisors should be trained on how to investigate reports of harassment and discrimination, and how to take corrective action when necessary. Additionally, employers should make clear that taking any adverse action against employees who make a complaint or participate in an investigation of an alleged act of discrimination or harassment is prohibited.

Safety Training:

Many of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) regulations explicitly require the employer to train employees in the safety and health aspects of their jobs. Other OSHA standards make it the employer’s responsibility to limit certain job assignments to employees who are "certified," "competent," or "qualified"—meaning that they have had special previous training, in or out of the workplace. A few of OSHA’s training requirements are listed below:

  • Emergency Action Plan. Employers required by an OSHA regulation to have an emergency action plan must train a sufficient number of employees to assist in safe and orderly emergency evacuation (see 29 CFR 1910.38).
  • Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). Employers must provide training to any employee required by OSHA regulations to wear PPE. For details on PPE training requirements (see 29 CFR 1910.132 and 29 CFR 1910.134).
  • Hazard Communication. Employers with hazardous chemicals in the workplace must provide employees with effective training at the time of their initial assignment and whenever a new chemical hazard is introduced into their work area. For detailed training requirements (see 29 CFR 1910.1200).
  • First Aid. If an infirmary, clinic, or hospital isn’t close to the workplace, the employer must ensure that one or more individuals are adequately trained to provide first aid (see 29 CFR 1910.151).

There are many more OSHA regulations that require training. Be sure to comply with all regulations that apply to your industry, workplace, and employees.

Job or Industry-Specific Training:

Certain federal and state laws require training for employees with specific job functions. For example, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) requires covered entities, such as health care providers, to train their workforce on procedures regarding protected health information as is necessary and appropriate to their employees’ respective job functions. In addition, Hazardous Materials Regulations require employers to provide specific safety training to employees who directly affect hazardous materials transportation. Check your industry requirements for more information.

FLSA Training:

Training supervisors on the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) can help employers comply with the various provisions of the law. At a minimum, the training should cover overtime requirements, the prohibition against off-the-clock work, and ensuring all hours of work are recorded and compensated.

Performance Management Training:

Whether new or tenured, all supervisors should receive adequate training on effectively managing employee performance. Supervisor training should address the company's performance review process and expectations, as well as guidelines for giving objective and constructive feedback, avoiding bias, setting appropriate goals, and effectively coaching employees.

Leave of Absence Training:

Training supervisors on leave of absence procedures and laws can help ensure that supervisors respond properly to requests for leave. At a minimum, the training should provide an overview of applicable leave laws, how supervisors should handle leave requests, and job restoration requirements upon the employee’s return. The training should also stress that job-protected leave may not count against an employee when evaluating his or her attendance or performance.

Compliance and Ethics Training:

Under certain circumstances, companies may be held responsible for criminal misconduct by employees. Effective training can help promote a culture of compliance with the law and ethical business practices. The training should cover the company’s policies, procedures, and efforts to prevent, detect, and address wrongdoing, as well as any laws that may apply to the company, such as the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act or the Sarbanes-Oxley Act.


Employers should familiarize themselves with the training requirements that apply to their employees and their business; design and implement effective training programs; and use qualified trainers. In addition, employers should thoroughly document all training activities, and should retain records of employee attendance at all completed trainings. Training records should include the name of the trained employee, the date of training, the type of training and the training provider. It is a best practice for employers to keep documentation of all trainings provided to demonstrate compliance with all applicable laws and regulations.

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