Overview: In order to effectively manage employees and supervisors, employers should develop a set of work rules to govern conduct at work. These work rules can be conveyed in an employee handbook or personnel manual as well as through memos to employees and supervisors and other forms of communication. Work rules may address attendance and tardiness, dress codes, grooming and personal appearance, workplace violence, political activity, gambling, workplace dating and nepotism, the use of employer provided equipment and vehicles, monitoring of electronic communications and social media use, harassment, prohibited conduct, moonlighting and off duty conduct, and leaves and time off from work. It is necessary for employers to institute rules to ensure that employees and supervisors receive fair and consistent treatment in frequently encountered situations. Employers should make sure that employees have a clear understanding of the work rules and expectations of behavior as this will serve as a defense for the employer if issues arise.
Trends: Employers should understand that certain work rules are required based on federal, state or local law. For example, it is generally advisable and in some states even required for employers to institute a work rule that harassment is strictly prohibited. Further, the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act) as well as complementary state law require that employers implement work rules that will address employee safety and security as well as workplace violence. Employers should be aware of these requirements and make sure to comply with their legal obligations.
Author: Beth P. Zoller, JD, Legal Editor
Updated guidance to reflect New York City Human Rights Commission enforcement guidance regarding race discrimination on the basis of hair.
Updated to reflect forthcoming notice-posting requirements regarding pregnancy and lactation accommodations.
Updated to reflect leave-related information under forthcoming amendments to the Kentucky Civil Rights Act regarding pregnancy accommodations.
Updated to include information on the forthcoming 50-State chart: Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault and Stalking Leave and Accommodation Laws by State and Municipality.
Updated to include forthcoming 'ban the box' law for private employers.
Hawaii employers seeking emphasize compliance with, and educate their workforces about the law, should consider including this model policy statement in their handbook.
Updated to incorporate protections related to domestic violence, a sexual offense or stalking, effective April 11, 2019.
Updated to incorporate leave protections related to domestic violence, a sexual offense or stalking, effective April 11, 2019.
HR guidance on implementing work rules that effectively address employer objectives and provide employees and supervisors with guidance as to acceptable and unacceptable workplace conduct.