Why Written Policy is Good Policy « Law Offices of Timothy Bowles | Top Employment Law Firm in Los Angeles

Why Written Policy is Good Policy

Why Written Policy is Good Policy

Reduce the Chances of Workplace Lawsuit Disaster by Proper Forms, Policy Handbook

Scenario, Not so Uncommon:   You are the newly hired head of Human Resources.  One afternoon, employee Karen reports that manager Joshua verbally insulted her with a sexual remark and then physically blocked her exit from the lunch area that day.  You interview, investigate and find that neither anyone present nor the video tape of the lunch room that day supports Karen’s story even vaguely.  Joshua was never even seen in the room, except by Karen.

You investigate further and discover that while Karen, the receptionist, is all sweetness and light with the public and management on the phones and over the counter, she has been virtually terrorizing her co-workers in the backroom with subtle, malicious gossip about managers and newcomers for as long as many can remember.  Karen, on interview, doesn’t deny this conduct. Instead, she attacks you verbally, accusing you of retaliating against her after she made the complaint about Joshua.

You, the newly hired HR head, rightfully conclude this woman is a stinker, liar and destroyer of morale and has got to go.  Thus, you, as new HR, turn to the shelves to consult the employer’s handbook and find … ah … the company has never had one, much less a policy prohibiting verbal harassment and other workplace misconduct. You turn to the files and find … ah … no-one has ever written a report on Karen’s destructive gossip.  You then find … ah … the company is in significant danger of a bogus suit from Karen for sexual harassment and illegal retaliation, even more so if you end up justifiably terminating her for her lies and other divisive conduct. The irony.

Employer Lesson One: Ounce of Prevention Can Equal Millions of Legal Fees “Cure”: This company is now facing a potentially bankrupting legal attack in large part because for years its managers did not take the time and care to ensure that : i) the company had written anti-harassment,  retaliation, discrimination and reporting policies in place (usually within personnel policy handbook for employers; and ii) the entire workforce possessed, studied and applied these policies.  Even just a written policy for “reporting of misconduct,” spelling out the employee’s duties, well-understood and followed by the workforce, could have prevented Karen’s long-destructive course of conduct from occurring or lead to her termination before she thought of making a false harassment claim.

As a continuing priority, business should thus implement, maintain and regularly update a “soup-to-nuts” employer handbook and a set of basic hire-to-fire forms and other written policy, including

a)     Employment applications, including a description of the job sought;

b)     Employment agreement (including confidentiality/non-disclosure of company trade secrets and mandatory mediation in the event and/or arbitration in the event of a dispute);

c)     Anti-discrimination, harassment, and retaliation policy;

d)     Employee job performance, compensation and benefits policies;

e)     Employee complaint, investigation and discipline policies;

f)      Employee time-off and vacation policies;

g)     Employer data access and employee privacy policies;

h)    Drug and alcohol abuse and testing policies; and

i)       Termination policy, checklist and release (to be applied with troublesome employees for greater protection against later, frivolous suits).

We provide a full set of such employer policies and procedures regularly to our clients. More detailed information is available upon request.

Best wishes,  Tim Bowles