Whether you own a business that employs hundreds of employees or are running a company with one other person, it’s important to establish workplace policies. Though it’s not required for some small businesses to have written procedures on these policies, having them in place can provide a sense of protection for workers’ rights and serve as a reminder for what is and isn’t appropriate in the workplace.
From discrimination and harassment to accommodations and beyond, here is what you need to include when drafting your workplace policies:
General Non-Discrimination Policy
Under the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), it is illegal to discriminate against applicants and employees based off of certain characteristics. Creating a general, non-discrimination policy outlines what is required of leadership and the consequences that will follow should these rules be broken. Some important policies in your writeup should include the following facts:
- That discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy, sexual orientation or gender identity), national origin, disability, age (40 or older) or genetic information (including family medical history) is illegal and will not be tolerated. Provide definitions and examples of prohibited conduct as needed.
- How employees can report discrimination.
- How managers and other employees with human resource responsibilities must respond appropriately to discrimination claims.
- The consequences for violating the non-discrimination policy.
- Protection for those that report discrimination or patriciate in the discrimination investigation, to the greatest possible extent.
The harassment policy should cover the same rules, protections and consequences as the general non-discrimination policy, but with more emphasis on workplace harassment. Harassment is defined by the EEOC as unwelcome conduct that is based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, older age, disability or genetic information. To be unlawful, the conduct must create a work environment that would be intimidating, hostile or offensive to reasonable people. Offensive conduct may include, but is not limited to, offensive jokes, slurs, epithets or name calling, physical assaults or threats, intimidation, ridicule or mockery, insults or put-downs, offensive objects or pictures and interference with work performance.
Reasonable Accommodation Policy
A reasonable accommodation policy outlines the requirements for employers to provide reasonable accommodations to employees or applicants with disabilities, medical needs or religious needs. There are a number of possible reasonable accommodations that an employer may have to provide in connection with modifications to the work environment or adjustments in how and when a job is performed, such as modified work schedules, accessible facilities, modifications in training and policies, and acquiring and modifying equipment. Matters of importance in this policy should include:
- Specify that your business provides reasonable accommodations (changes to the way things are normally done at work) to applicants and employees who need them for medical or religious reasons, as required by law.
- Identify and provide contact information for the individual(s) responsible for handling reasonable accommodation requests.
- The requirement for managers to respond to such requests promptly and effectively.
- How managers might legally deny an accommodation or provide an alternate accommodation if one is seen as unreasonable.
- The privacy involved in documentation of medical files or additional information related to a needed accommodation.
- How employees can report discrimination based on reasonable accommodations.
Leave Policy Tips
This policy describes the legalities for how employees must conduct themselves in the case they need to take a leave of absence from work due to medical or religious reasons. Guidelines in your leave policy should include:
- Clarify that you will provide leave to employees who need it for medical or religious reasons, as required by law.
- The required documents to request leave.
- Require managers to respond promptly to leave requests.
- If a prompt response is not possible, consider periodically updating the employee on the status of their request.
- To prevent misunderstandings, consider recommending that decisions to modify or deny leave requests be explained to the employee.
- Require that managers keep genetic information or medical information received as a result of a leave request confidential and in a separate medical file.
For more information on these policies and the rights of employees and managers alike, visit eeoc.gov for more information.
Source: U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission