Enforcing Your Company Policies
Your company policies give employees a clear directive of what conduct and behavior is expected and what is not tolerated. Policies can be company-specific or based on legal regulatory compliance, and most companies have both. Employers may expect their employees to follow their policies at all times, especially if they work from home or travel as part of their positions.
The proliferation of social media and mobile devices means more public exposure than ever before, both on the job and off. Do you want or need to keep an eye on your employees when they are off the clock, and is there anything you can do if they violate
company policies when they aren’t at work?
Legal and Illegal Employee Activity
Illegal conduct while away from work, such as getting arrested for criminal activity, may constitute actionable cause for discipline and/or termination especially if it interferes with the employee’s ability to do the job. An employee who is detained in jail for weeks or months is not available to perform the work he or she was hired to do. Employees with driving responsibilities who are convicted of drunk driving put the employer’s commercial insurance at risk, and not taking action could result in costly legal action.
Lawful off-duty employee conduct touches on individual rights to privacy and employers’ attempts to protect their reputations, minimize their liability, and maintain a productive workforce. In at-will employment relationships, employers and employees can end the employment relationship for any reason or no reason at all, but employers are obligated to follow federal, state, and local employment laws and regulations in their dealings with employees.
Federal laws are clear about unlawful employer actions in employment decisions regarding issues like race, religion, sex, national origin, pregnancy, medical conditions, age, and disability. Employers can’t legally make hiring, discipline, and termination decisions against employees who make OSHA complaints, take FMLA leave, or question overtime practices.
Employers may feel the need to try to regulate employee off-duty behavior on social media to prevent situations like disparaging remarks about the company that could damage reputations and lose customers, but may be limited by laws like the National Labor Relations Act.
State and Local Laws
Compliance with federal law is important but state and local laws can be even stronger or more extensive than federal regulations. Many are designed to protect specific off-duty conduct and require employers to explicitly relate employee activity and business
impact for adverse action.
Many states have laws protecting employees’ rights regarding activities like smoking, possession of firearms, voting and elections, and medical marijuana. 20 states have medical marijuana laws as of 2014, with more pending. Not many employers want their employees bringing guns to work but 13 states protect an employee’s right to do just that. More than half the states protect smokers’ rights.
Adherence to employment laws at all levels is important in hiring, discipline, and termination situations, especially regarding lawful off-duty conduct. Legal counsel from an experienced employment lawyer can help navigate all the nuances of when and how to implement and enforce your company’s employment policies to reinforce a good working relationship rather than put your company at risk.
An important factor in successful enforcement of company policies, whether internal and/or external adherence is expected, is being proactive rather than reactive. Proactive strategic company policies are stated in the employee handbook as what is specifically expected and what is specifically not allowed, along with consequences for violations.
Do not wait for something to go wrong in your company. Contact PAYDAY and get proactive HR solutions.