Workplace Policies: Are the right policies in place to support the investigation?

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September 06, 2018
Author: Marc L. Jacuzzi, Esq.

Key Policies – Are the right policies in place to support the investigation?

A. Policy against Harassment - key elements.
1. Statement of the Company’s commitment to providing an environment free of unlawful discrimination.
2. Statement of protected categories.
3. Statement clearly prohibiting employees from engaging in inappropriate behaviors in violation of the policy (i.e. zero tolerance).
4. Statement of examples of forms of harassment.
5. Definition of “sexual harassment.”
6. Name of person or officer of the Company to which complaints of inappropriate behaviors should be reported.
7. Statement guaranteeing no retaliation for reporting inappropriate behavior.
8. Statement describing the complaint process, investigation and communication of corrective action (up to and including termination).
9. Procedure if out outcome of investigation is unsatisfactory to complainant including name and direction to State and federal agencies.
10. Name of contact for questions concerning the policy. And,
11. Prohibition against Third-Party Harassment.

B. E-mail, Instant Message, Text Message, Voice Mail, Cellular Phones, Internet Access and Computer Systems Policy – key elements.
1. Statement of no expectation of privacy in the computer system, voice mail or other electronic modes of communication and employees should not assume systems are personal/confidential.
2. Statement that policy covers all Company systems including all networked and individual equipment (e.g., stand alone computer).
3. Statement that the systems belong to the Company and the contents are to be accessible at all times by management for any business purpose.
4. Statement that the systems may be subject to periodic unannounced inspections, and should be treated like other shared filing systems.
5. Statement that all system passwords must be available to the Company management - - any password that is unknown to the Company is prohibited.
6. Statement that employees should inform family members and friends not to use the systems for any confidential messages (e.g., confidential voice mail or e-mail messages). And,
7. Statement that the systems may not be used in any manner that would be discriminatory, harassing or obscene, or for any other purpose which is illegal, against Company policy or not in the best interests of the Company.

C. Security and Workplace Protection (Monitoring, Locker/Desk Inspections, Video Surveillance) Policy - key elements.
1. Statement that there is no expectation of privacy in lockers, company vehicles, desks and any other office equipment/facilities furnished by the Company.
2. Statement that the Company may conduct workplace monitoring to ensure quality control, employee safety, security, and customer satisfaction.
3. Statement that computers, lockers, company vehicles, desks and any other office equipment furnished to employees are the property of the Company and may be searched by the Company at any time, with or without notice or warning.
4. Statement that an employee’s personal items, such as purses and backpacks, are also subject to search by management if brought on Company premises.
5. Statement that the Company may conduct video surveillance of nonprivate workplace areas.
6. Statement of the business purpose for any video monitoring, for example, video monitoring is used to identify safety concerns, maintain quality control, detect theft and misconduct, and discourage or prevent acts of harassment and workplace violence).
7. Statement that in accordance with applicable law, employees may not be notified or warned of any such surveillance.
8. Statement that because the Company is sensitive to the privacy rights of employees, every effort will be made to ensure that workplace monitoring is conducted in an ethical and respectful manner. And,
9. Statement that employees can request access to information gathered through workplace monitoring that may impact employment decisions.

Access may be granted unless there is an official business reason to protect confidentiality or there is an ongoing investigation.

D. Open Door Policy – key elements.
1. Statement that it is Company policy to communicate and deal directly with individual employees to discuss, directly with employees, any problems that an employee might have.
2. Statement that Management's \"door\" is always open. And,
3. Statement that employees are encouraged to see their supervisors about all questions or matters relating to their job or that they may see any manager regarding a question within the manager's scope of responsibilities.

E. Drug and Alcohol Policy – key elements.
1. Statement that the Company will not tolerate and prohibits employees selling, buying, distributing, possessing, or being under the influence of, illegal drugs or other controlled substances during working hours (and during non-working hours for illegal drugs).
2. Statement that employees shall not report to work anytime while under the influence of alcohol.
3. Statement that the Company will not tolerate employees abusing legal drugs during working hours.
4. Statement that if for any reason an employee must take a prescription drug that may have any side effects that hinders the employee in doing his/her normal job, notify his/her supervisor before s/he starts work.
5. Statement that the Company reserves the right to search all work areas and Company property at any time.
6. Definition of illegal drugs and legal drugs. Definition of abuse of legal drugs.
7. Statement that if a supervisor believes that an employee is not working safely and unimpaired, the employee will be reassigned or sent home for the remainder of the day pending an investigation. And,
8. Statement that violation of the policy will lead to disciplinary action up to and including termination.

F. Standards of Conduct (Workplace Rules) Policy – key elements.
1. Statement that although it is not possible to provide an exhaustive list of all types of impermissible conduct and performance, listed are some examples.
2. Statement listing work rules that must be followed (for example, attendance, punctuality, safety/security, no drugs or alcohol, no harassment, threats of violence, grooming/personal appearance, no stealing, etc).
3. Statement listing work behaviors that must be followed/avoided (for example, no offensive/undesirable behavior, report to work with enthusiasm, no abusive language, treating customers and other employees with respect, etc.). And,
4. Statement that violations may lead to disciplinary action, up to including immediate discharge.

G. Injury and Illness Prevention Plan (\"IIPP\") Policy – key elements.
1. Statement that every employee should understand the importance of safety in the workplace.
2. Statement that the Company emphasizes \"safety first\" and expects all employees to take steps to promote safety in the work place.
3. Statement that the Company has established an \"Injury and Illness Prevention Program\" as part of its safety program. And ,
4. Designate who has been delegated responsibility for administering and implementing the Injury and Illness Prevention Program.

H. Outline of Safety Rules Policy – key elements.
1. Statement that the Company requires all employee to cooperate in helping to promote safety and to prevent accidents to himself/herself, as well as to other employees, customers and visitors, by observing the safety rules [see IIPP for details].
2. Statement listing all work safety rules that must be followed (for example, reporting to work rested and physically fit, keeping materials orderly, lifting technique, reading warning labels, obeying all traffic laws/safe driving, reporting all injuries, no blocking aisles, traffic lanes or fire exits, obeying the “No Smoking” signs, etc.).
3. Statement that intoxicants and nonprescription drugs are NOT PERMITTED. And,
4. Statement that violations may lead to disciplinary action, up to including immediate discharge.

I. Other Policies to consider.
1. Personal Appearance/grooming policy.
2. Conflict of Interest (including financial and accepting other work) policy.
3. Attendance policy. And,
4. Non-disclosure of Confidential/Proprietary Information and Trade Secrets policy (or stand-alone agreement).

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