Archive for October, 2011

Zo’s EMPLOYEE HANDBOOK PART VII. AND THAT’S IT! Or Two Policies in a single post.

In this very last installment of Zo’s employee handbook you get two policies for the price of one.  Well, not really two policies, but two pages for your handbook.  The first actually is a policy,  our solicitation and distribution of literature policy.  I know you are asking, do we really need this one?  Well we can argue about it one way or another, but I’m going to put it in anyway, just because.  So here you go, the last policy:

SOLICITATION

AND

DISTRIBUTION OF LITERATURE

To prevent unnecessary interruption of workflow during hours of operation Zo’s limits solicitation and distribution of literature.  Solicitations by employees are prohibited during working time.  Distribution of literature of any kind by employees is prohibited in work areas.  Persons who are not employees of Zo’s are not allowed to be on company premises at any time for the purpose of engaging in either solicitation or distribution of literature, so if you see someone you don’t know walking around handing out leaflets let us know.

Breaks are not work time, so if you want to sell Girl Scout cookies for your daughter do it on your breaks and make sure the person you are pestering is on break too.  Break rooms are not work areas, so again, make sure you put the cookie order sheet in the break room, not at your desk.  If we find the order sheet where it does not belong, we will move it and we won’t buy any cookies.  By the way, if you pester people too much, we are going to make you stop.  So, See Rule 1.

And that is it.  Yep, that is the entire Zo’s employee handbook. Nothing more and nothing less.  What about the FMLA you say?   Zo’s is not big enough for FMLA but you might be.  Will you be surprised to learn that I can help you do that?  How about leaves of absence?  We will deal with them as they come along.  TheADAis going to be our guide in that regard anyway.  How about vacation?  Again, we are pretty small and this was always meant to be an example of a handbook for an employer just starting out.  What we are going to do at Zo’s is put PTO in each employee’s offer letter and move it to the handbook when we get enough employees for it to make sense.  But you might want to put that in now.  And I will tell you one more thing we are going to have that won’t be part of the handbook:  Everyone, and I mean everyone, is going to sign a confidentiality agreement.

So that is what Zo’s is going to do.  But don’t forget, that just might not work for you.  So here are some other things that you might want to consider:  Do you want a personal relationship policy?  (Back in the old days we called these fraternization policies!)  How about an attendance policy?  If so, are you going to have just a statement about attendance or do you think you might want to have some sort of point system?  Are you going to have some sort of a grievance procedure or open door policy?  Do you want to deal with things like breaks and meal periods and holiday pay?  Are you going to do drug tests?

So you see, there are some questions you still need to ask yourself and of course, I will be happy to help you work your way through these things.  And the answer to some of these questions may depend on how far along you are and how many employees you have.

But here at Zo’s, and we may add an additional policy here and there as we go,  this is what we are going to start with. “Can’t be,” you say!  “I just read an article from a ‘Mega Firm’ and they said I need a workplace violence policy!”  Ok, if you are a great big employer with hundreds of employees maybe you do.  But if you are not, do you need to tell people they can’t hit other people or threaten them, or bring a weapon to work? If you do, you better rethink your hiring practices.

I think we can always fall back on Rule 1: Be Professional.

But wait a second, You said in this installment I get two free policies in a single post.  I didn’t forget.  The last, very last thing we are going to give you is an acknowledgment form.  Here is what it says:

ACKNOWLEDGMENT

I acknowledge receiving the Zo’s Employee Handbook dated ___________, 2011.  I understand and agree that it is my responsibility to read and understand the policies in this Employee Handbook.  I understand and agree that my employment with Zo’s is at-will and that nothing contained in the Employee Handbook is intended to nor does it alter the at-will nature of my employment.  I agree that this Handbook is not a contract of employment.

I understand and agree that Zo’s reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to change, revise or discontinue any of the policies contained in this handbook at any time, with or without notice.  Zo’s will make every attempt to notify you of any changes to its policies as soon as possible, but the effect of any such change is not dependent on you receiving actual notice of the change.

                                                                                                                       

Employee                                                                                 Date

Zo’s EMPLOYEE HANDBOOK PART VI: SOCIAL SECURITY NUMBER PRIVACY POLICY

At Zo’s we also have a Social Security Number privacy policy. Why?  Because Zo’s is based in Michigan and in Michigan we have to have a Social Security number privacy policy law. So here is what the policy says:

SOCIAL SECURITY NUMBER PRIVACY

Zo’s understands the importance of protecting the confidentiality of its employees’ Social Security numbers and those collected in the ordinary course of Zo’s business. Neither Zo’s nor any of its employees will unlawfully disclose Social Security numbers obtained during the ordinary course of business. Zo’s will limit access to information or documents containing Social Security numbers to those employees who need the information to do their jobs.

 In addition, Zo’s will shield Social Security numbers displayed on computer monitors or printed documents from being easily viewed by others. Unless required to do so, Zo’s will not use Social Security numbers as personal identifiers, permit numbers, license numbers, or primary account numbers or other similar uses

 Zo’s may use a Social Security number to perform an administrative duty related to employment, including, for example, to verify the identity of an individual; to detect or prevent identity theft; to investigate claims; to perform a credit check, criminal background check or driving history check; to enforce legal rights; or to administer benefits programs.

All provisions of this policy are subject to the language of the Social Security Number Privacy Act of the State ofMichigan.

Seems pretty simple, right?  It is also basically what is required by the law and it is such a straight forward policy that there is nothing much more to talk about.  So have a great day and next week we will wrap up Zo’s employee handbook.

Zo’s EMPLOYEE HANDBOOK PART V: COMPUTER USE, SOCIAL MEDIA AND INTERNET USE POLICY

At Zo’s, everyone is going to have a computer and everyone is going to have unlimited access to the Internet and everyone is going to have an e-mail account. And that, as you know, can cause some problems. That means we need a computer use policy. And at Zo’s, when we say computer use we mean not only the computer on your desk, but every thing that you can do with your computer. We mean  how you use your e-mail account, how you use the Internet and what you do on social media. So our computer use policy is going to deal with all of those things. But it might not be as long as you think:

COMPUTER USE POLICY

 Zo’s understands the popularity and usefulness of social networking sites, Internet forums, blogs and other forms of Internet communication and expression (collectively known as social media). Zo’s has no desire to keep employees from realizing the benefits of social media; however, we recognize that the popularity of social media creates challenges.  So when using your computer, your email account, the Internet or social media, see Rule 1.

Zo’s can monitor your Zo’s email account, your use of your work computer and any work computer resources (which includes things like company provided software, your iPad if we give you one, your data use (not the content of phone calls, but maybe the time you spend on them) on your iPhone or Blackberry if we give you one of those and any other computer based resource we give you to use for your job, which we are going to collectively call computer resources) and we may look at them if we believe we have a reason to. Don’t give us a reason to and we won’t.  See Rule 1. Whether you give us a reason or not, it is best to expect that what you say using Zo email, a Zo computer or a Zo computer resource is not going to be private.  After all, you are at work and we pay you, so we get to know what you are doing. That’s just common sense.

When talking about Zo’s products and services always tell people that you work at Zo’s and always tell the truth about the products and services we offer.  Also, don’t post or engage in objectionable (and by objectionable we mean things like demeaning anyone because of their membership in a protected class, see the EEO Policy, or that harasses anyone because of their membership in a protected class, see the Anti Harassment Policy) conduct on Zo’s computer resources or while working.  See Rule 1.  Finally, we respect your right to engage in dialog on social media and the internet while not at work and we respect your rights under section 7 of the NLRA, and what you do on your time is generally your business, so don’t make it Zo’s.  If you are talking about work, See Rule 1.

Now there is one big change to this policy that I never would have put in to a social media policy, or any other policy for that matter, even a couple of months ago, but I put it in this one, and that is . . . . drum roll please . . . . the reference to section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act.  “Is Zo’s a union employer” you ask?  Nope it’s not.  But the National Labor Relations Board is very interested in what is going on with social media these days.  In fact, the Office of the General Counsel of the Board just recently issued Operations-Management Memorandum OM 11-74 on August 18, 2011 that provides a summary of some of its actions regarding section 7 and social media.  Basically, what the Board is saying is that a social medial policy that broadly prohibits employees from doing things like making disparaging remarks about the company is a violation of Section 8(a)(1) of the NLRA.  And that is true if you are a union employer or not.  And please don’t forget, the Board’s jurisdictional requirements are not based on the number of employees you have.  Rather, it is formula based on how much business you do in interstate commerce.  So I thought it would be best just to deal with the section 7 issues up front.  After all, Zo’s is going to need to put up a poster soon anyway.

Zo’s EMPLOYEE HANDBOOK PART IV: ANTI-HARASSMENT POLICY

This is going to be another lawyerly section of the Zo employee handbook.  Why, you ask, is this part lawyerly? Is there a law that requires you to have an anti-harassment policy? Well, sort of.  What the heck does “sort of” mean, Zo? It means that there is no statute that specifically requires you to have an anti-harassment policy, but the U.S. Supreme Court says that if you want to take advantage of a certain defense to a sexual harassment charge, you have to have a policy. And when the Supreme Court says we think it is a good idea that you have a policy. . . well, we lawyers tend to agree. One more thing to keep in mind, look at the title.  I like something like “Policy Against Harassment” not “Harassment Policy”.  The former makes if clear you won’t condone harassment, the latter makes it sound like you allow harassment as long as you do it by the rules.  Oh and it is an anti “harassment” policy, not an anti “sexual harassment” policy.  I just think it is a good idea to make sure employee’s know you won’t tolerate any harassment based on any protected category, not just sex or gender.  So, here we go:

POLICY AGAINST HARASSMENT

It is our policy here at Zo’s to provide a work environment free from harassment. Zo’s will not tolerate any conduct that violates this policy, and will promptly investigate and resolve all alleged complaints and take appropriate disciplinary action against employees who violate this policy.

Zo’s will not tolerate harassment of any employee by any other employee, supervisor, vendor or customer. Harassment for any discriminatory reason, such as sex, race, color, national origin, disability, age, religion, marital status, sexual orientation, or any other protected category, violates Zo’s policy.

Sexual harassment includes unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors or any other conduct of a sexual nature when:  (1) submission to the conduct is made, either implicitly or explicitly, a condition of employment; (2) submission to or rejection of the conduct is used as the basis for an employment decision affecting the harassed employee; or (3) the harassment has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with the employee’s work performance or creating an environment that is intimidating, hostile or offensive to the employee.

You must exercise your own good judgment to avoid any conduct that may be perceived by others as harassment. See Rule 1 in this Handbook.  The following conduct is a partial list of these behaviors:

–                    Unwanted sexual advances

–                    Offering employment benefits in exchange for sexual favors

–                    Making or threatening reprisals after a negative response to sexual advances

–                    Visual conduct: leering, making sexual gestures, displaying of sexually suggestive objects or                                          pictures, cartoons or posters

–                    Verbal conduct: making or using derogatory comments, epithets, slurs and jokes.

–                    Verbal sexual advances or propositions

–                    Verbal abuse of a sexual nature, graphic verbal commentaries about an individual’s body, sexually                           degrading words used to describe an individual, suggestive or obscene letters, notes or invitations.

–                    Physical conduct: touching, assaulting, impeding or blocking movements.

If you believe that you have been subjected to conduct that violates this policy, you must report it immediately to your supervisor, to HR or straight to Zo. Any complaint of alleged harassment will be carefully investigated.  Should there be any violation of this policy, appropriate actions will be taken to correct the matter.. Do not allow an inappropriate situation to continue by not reporting it, regardless of who is creating that situation. No employee in this organization is exempt from this policy. In response to every complaint, Zo’s will take prompt and necessary steps to investigate the matter and will protect your confidentiality as much as is possible, recognizing the need to thoroughly investigate all complaints. Zo’s will take corrective and preventative actions where necessary. Zo’s will not retaliate against any employee who in good faith brings a complaint to the attention of Zo’s or participates in an investigation regarding a complaint. Any employee who violates this policy is subject to discipline, up to and including termination

Now that is a long one, and no doubt a lawyer wrote it, but hey . . . I am a lawyer after all; you can’t shake it all out of me.  You need this one in your handbook, and if you don’t have a handbook you need this one posted on a bulletin board or handed out to employees.

The Trees Get a 10-Week Amnesty: NLRB Delays Poster Requirement.

Remember when I said trees would die needlessly  so that the NLRB could force you to put up a poster that was not really needed?  The trees may be getting a reprieve.  The NLRB announced today that it is postponing by more than two months the implementation date for its new notice-posting rule “in order to allow for enhanced education and outreach to employers, particularly those who operate small- and medium-sized businesses.”

The original deadline for posting the notice was November  14, 2011.  That date has been extended to January 31, 2012.  You can find the NLRB’s announcement here.