Nancy Gunzenhauser Popper, Associate in the Employment, Labor & Workforce Management practice, in the firm’s New York office, was quoted in HR Dive, in “3 Lessons to Help Supervisors Handle Employee Requests,” by Ryan Golden.

Following is an excerpt:

When an employee needs to take time off or request an accommodation, be it for medical, religious or other reasons, her supervisor is a likely point of contact about the request.

And yet, in numerous lawsuits, the actions of supervisors can and have led to compliance issues for employers. Whether the cause is a lack of training, general unfamiliarity with employment laws or simple refusal to take a request seriously, employers can take action to mitigate legal risk.

Compliance experts who spoke with HR Dive offered three specific tips to help employers train their managers and supervisors to field employee requests. …

#2: Take accommodation requests seriously …

Supervisors need to be conscious that they are acting on behalf of their employer in such situations, Nancy Gunzenhauser Popper, associate at Epstein Becker Green, told HR Dive in an email. “It is always important for supervisors to remember that they are a representative of the employer, so when speaking to employees, they are speaking on behalf of the employer,” she said. “In this regard, supervisors should be trained to make time when employees have requests or want to raise concerns.” …

Supervisors may also be concerned about appearing as though they are giving preferential treatment to certain employees when they do grant accommodations, but training can address this, too.

“In response to questions about another employee’s workplace accommodations, supervisors should be trained to acknowledge the employee’s concern, while at the same time keep employee information confidential,” Gunzenhauser Popper said. “Sometimes it is helpful for supervisors to remind the complaining employee that if he or she needed assistance at work, that that information would also remain confidential.”

#3: When in doubt, talk to HR

A common thread throughout the above points is perhaps the most important takeaway for those in charge of training supervisors: HR needs to be made aware of the situation.

“Supervisors should also be trained to know that they are not solely responsible for handling all employee concerns,” Gunzenhauser Popper said. “Rather, sometimes it is best to include Human Resources. In fact, many issues should be handled solely by Human Resources. Supervisors should be trained to understand which situations may be better handled by a neutral HR team, so that requests can be addressed consistently.”

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