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 in relation to the Supreme Court ruling on LGBTQ+ rights.
Updated to reflect retaliation protections in the forthcoming law regarding pregnancy accommodations.
Updated to reflect an amendment to the Florida Civil Rights Act.
San Francisco employers with 500 or more employees should consider adapting this policy to inform employees about leave available under the San Francisco, California Public Health Emergency Leave Ordinance (PHELO).
Chicago employers that are covered by the City's Fair Workweek Ordinance should consider including this statement in their handbook to educate employees about special rights and protections available under the ordinance.
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.