Employee Handbooks - Work Rules - Employee Conduct: Federal
Authors: Theresa Donahue Egler, Jennifer Rygiel-Boyd and Ryan T. Warden, Ogletree Deakins; (Work Rules Concerning Employee Codes of Conduct, Ethics and Conflicts of Interest; Work Rules and Policies Addressing Workplace Violence; Work Rules and Policies Regarding Horseplay; Work Rules Concerning Bullying and Harassment).
Jason Habinsky, Haynes & Boone; (Guidelines for Employee Handbooks, Work Rules and Policies; Work Rules Concerning Political and Charitable Activity and Employee Expression of Views; Work Rules Regarding Use of Employer Equipment, Vehicles and Communication Systems; Prohibited Conduct; Work Rules Regarding Off Duty Conduct; Work Rules Regulating Employee Dress; Grooming and Personal Appearance; Work Rules Regarding Employee Work Schedules and Shifts; Work Rules Regarding Attendance, Tardiness and Timekeeping).
- Employers should develop employee handbooks to notify employees of workplace rules, policies and procedures, which set expectations for employee conduct. Handbooks should be written in simple language, kept up-to-date, modified to reflect variations among different employees and universally distributed to all employees. There are a variety of different workplace rules, policies and procedures that should be included in an employee handbook. See Guidelines for Employee Handbooks, Work Rules and Policies.
- It is important for employers to develop a code of conduct, also called a code of business conduct or code of ethics, which is applicable to all employees. Codes of conduct serve to promote an organization culture encouraging ethical conduct and a commitment to compliance with the law by defining standards of behavior expected of employees. Employees should be encouraged to report actual or suspected violations without fear of retaliation, and individuals who violate the code may be subject to discipline. See Work Rules Concerning Employee Codes of Conduct, Ethics and Conflicts of Interest.
- Employers should plan for potential conflicts of interest among employees, customers and clients. In doing so, employers should develop confidentiality, ethics and whistleblowing policies. See Work Rules Concerning Employee Codes of Conduct, Ethics and Conflicts of Interest.
- Employees will inevitably form personal relationships in the workplace. While not illegal, personal relationships can be problematic and give rise to employer liability. Accordingly, employers should establish work rules to ensure that all employees adhere to the same standards and engage in appropriate conduct at work. See Employee Dating and Romantic Relationships.
- Personal relationships that should be addressed by work rules range from dating and romantic relationships among co-workers to employing family members as co-workers. See Employee Dating and Romantic Relationships.
- Employers should also establish work rules and policies regarding employees personal activities, such as having visitors in the workplace, celebrating birthdays and other milestones at work, requiring appropriate conduct at work functions and parties, and using employer time and/or equipment for personal reasons. See Work Rules Concerning Personal Relationships and Personal Activities; Work Rules Regarding Use of Employer Equipment, Vehicles and Communication Systems.
- It is important for an employer to implement policies and work rules designed to minimize the risk of, protect employees from and ensure the employer's proper response to incidents of workplace violence. See Work Rules and Policies Addressing Workplace Violence.
- To ensure employee safety and to avoid liability, employers should implement work rules and policies addressing horseplay, bullying and harassment. See Work Rules Regarding Workplace Violence, Horseplay and Harassment.
- Employers may limit employee use of employer equipment, vehicles and communications to proper business purposes for both privacy and security reasons. See Work Rules Regarding Use of Employer Equipment, Vehicles and Communication Systems.
- Generally, employers should detail and publish what type of conduct will and will not be permitted in the workplace and outside of work, so that employees can comply with these requirements. See Work Rules Regarding Off Duty Conduct; Prohibited Conduct.
- Employers may institute policies regulating employee dress, grooming and personal appearance and develop standards that apply equally to all employees. See Work Rules Regulating Employee Dress, Grooming and Personal Appearance.
- Employers should also ensure conformance with federal guidelines regarding work schedules. See Work Rules Regarding Employee Work Schedules and Shifts.
- Some federal statutes explicitly regulate employee absenteeism and attendance. Employers should develop policies to address employee tardiness and timekeeping. See Laws Affecting Absenteeism and Attendance.
The following states have additional requirements for this topic under applicable state law.
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