Hostile Work Environment Definition
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Stop Your Harassing Boss With Your Employee Handbook

The Employee Handbook – Know the Rules and Your Rights

By: Jenn S.

When you first went to work for your employer, it is likely that you received an employee handbook, often referred to as an employee manual or a policy and procedure manual. If you did what you were supposed to do, you read it and then signed a document stating that you read and fully understood the rules and policies stated within. Though such “rule books” often seem like mindless paperwork you can easily plow through during orientation and then forget, they are much, much more than that. Instead of thinking of the employee handbook as all of the things that you can’t do or rules that restrict you, also think of it as what your employer has to so do for you.

Key Employee Policies:  So what are the most important policies and procedures to focus on? Which policies are most often utilized by employers to get rid of employees? Which policies should you make yourself highly aware of in order to keep your job? Frankly, you should carefully read the entire manual from cover to cover and then keep it somewhere where you can easily refer to it in the future. However, if you are not big into reading or your employer’s manual happens to fill numerous binders, try to at least familiarize yourself with the following key policies:

Standards of Conduct: Kind of a no-brainer, but you would be surprised how many people are unaware of the multitude of acts or behaviors that can land you on your employer’s hit list. Most policies regarding standards of conduct give a long laundry list of offenses, from poor performance on the job to violence or drugs in the workplace. The standards of conduct are a good place to start to determine exactly what is unacceptable in your workplace so that you can avoid crossing the line right from the start.

Anti-Harassment / Discrimination Policy: This policy is important for several reasons. One, you should know how to use it in case you are a victim of discrimination or harassment or you witness it happening to a coworker. More importantly, you should determine exactly what your employer is promising to do for you in the event that you make a complaint of discrimination or harassment and then hold the employer to it. If the employer fails to follow its policies, you may very well have a valid legal claim. Finally, you should make yourself aware of exactly what constitutes discriminatory or harassing acts so that you can avoid violating the policy yourself or having a complaint filed against you.

Disciplinary Policy / Progressive Discipline Policy: Again, here is a policy that you not only need to know but must hold your employer accountable to following, should you be targeted for disciplinary action. Determine what the progressive “steps” are for each level of discipline and what acts or behaviors fall under each step. For example, repetitive violations of the attendance policy may first warrant a verbal warning, then a written warning, and then ultimately termination. However, a serious offense, such as insubordination or theft may warrant immediate dismissal. Know your rights under this policy and make sure that your employer is applying it fairly and consistently amongst all workers. Inconsistent application of this policy could be grounds for legal action.

Medical Leave and Other Kinds of Leave: At the beginning of your employment, you should make yourself aware of how your employer handles requests for time off. Most employers are bound by laws that require them to provide you time off for certain medical conditions or the medical conditions of particular family members but beyond such required leave, you should also know how any paid vacation or sick leave is earned and how to request such time off. A handbook will usually also cover other types of leaves such as jury duty or witness leave, bereavement leave, and military leave, amongst many. Educate yourself up front on the leave issue so that you know what you can expect from your employer should the need for a leave arise.

Fraternization & Employee Dating Policy: As I have made very clear in previous articles, dating in the workplace is never a good idea, but some employers actually have policies against it. The most dangerous dating relationship (and usually the one that will violate a no fraternization policy) is one between a supervisor and a subordinate. Such a situation not only creates tension and drama in the workplace but it also creates the possibility of legal liability for the employer and the individual supervisor, should the subordinate decide to file a harassment complaint. But even a relationship between coworkers can violate an employer’s policy so be mindful of the rules and if you happen to find love at work, do your best to keep it under wraps and outside of the workplace.

Non-Solicitation / Distribution Policy: Know your employer’s policy regarding solicitation. Most employers do not allow any sort of solicitation or distribution of literature in the workplace, on work time. Some employers might allow it in the break room, when you are off of company time but generally speaking, it is probably best to leave the Mary Kay and Pampered Chef brochures at home or in the car. If you want to give something to your coworkers, do it after work, off the premises.

Confidential Information Policy: Know what you can and cannot talk about, both inside and outside the workplace. Your job may require that you handle sensitive, confidential information and in such cases, employers often have employees sign a separate confidentiality agreement. But for those in less sensitive positions, you might still run afoul of a confidential information policy, especially if the policy includes the discussion of salary information (who doesn’t like to complain to coworkers about their pay?) or other internal information that should not be shared outside the workplace. This is a policy to know and strictly follow, as violations of it often lead directly to termination.

By educating yourself about your employer’s policies and procedures, you will be much more savvy about what your employer expects from you, as well as what you can expect from your employer.

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Comments

  1. axedwithpatents says:

    Signing your life away for a few months of pay realy stinks

  2. avidalocan says:

    Want to leave your job and get paid for sitting at home just the same?

    If your contract states that Notice to Leave of 7 or 14 days is required, you can usually get that for free. State Laws and employers also have a Code Of Conduct which states that if you commit a serious breach of that code (usually just theft, fraud or assault) you will be terminated without notice (i.e. summary or immediate dismissal without 14 days payment).

    Here’s what you do:

    1) Think of the weakest employee in your organisation in terms of your ability to verbally abuse them and kind of pull it off as an authentic comeback or retaliation. Make notes of what they do against you, when and words and actions taken.

    2) When your contract is three months in, often the trial period is over and you are then legally entitled under contract law to receive 14 days notice instead of 7. Make sure this clause exists in your contract.

    3) When you get 14 days (i.e. after 3 months work), write a vicious and attacking email to that colleague over something they did – usually a complaint they made about you, tardiness in completing work, mistakes etc. Make it a violent and powerful character assassination but use no threats or obscenities. Keep to work-related matters. It helps if you have complained about them before or you have any kind of tension between you on record. It also helps if you tone down your personality before this email, so the contrast is great. Also, write the email from home in your own time using your own PC.

    4) At this point, 95/100 employers will forget the contractual terms and focus on protecting their long-term employee from abuse. They will call you to tell you of your immediate dismissal without notice on the grounds of a serious breach of the Code Of Conduct, as they are threatened and shocked and cannot deduce exactly what you are doing.

    5) During your termination call, say you are supposed to give 14 days notice or payment in lieu thereof. They will ignore that in their fear and tell you to leave immediately. Take all your belongings and get out. Demand the money via email, emphasising the illegality of their actions. Get a lawyer to write a letter to them asking why they did not give notice under the terms of the contract (this saves you having to do a lot of legwork if they pay at that point). Whatever happens, you will get your money. This works better where you are on high casual contract rates.

  3. avidalocan says:

    The reason the plan above works is that it creates the illusion of serious misconduct without actually doing that. So it is tempting to those in power to get rid of you. Also, they can only keep you there at their peril and yours due to the tension now created between you and staff. So they would rather get rid of you and make up a story to save them the 14 days notice than keep you on or pay you to leave – either of which would be a loss for them.

    So there is a way to get out of a job you hate and still get paid for it. This plan is even better if you have another job. Also, you must make the email seem like you are going to violently crush this person in your bare hands next time you see them, or they won’t get the emotional disturbance you need to make them want to instantly eliminate you. You can’t force them but you can sure make it hellishly tempting for them to forget contracts and laws and go for their own protection and sanctity from you, or what they perceive that to be, because they don’t know you and don’t actually know you are not the person in the aggressive email.

  4. avidalocan says:

    This email did it for me. I made thousands for sitting on my butt:.

    —– Original Message —–
    From: M
    To: T
    Sent:
    Subject: What’s this?

    T

    What’s all this stuff you’ve been telling R about me?

    You were over at the office on Wednesday night to fix a problem we spent over 90 minutes on over the phone and MSN. I had no reason to be there because I had worked almost 9 hours without solving it.

    You took 5 days to pick up the RAID card, left it to me to pick up, but you were on to R immediately that night or the next morning to tell her I didn’t turn up at 6:30pm? That was uncharacteristically quick of you.

    Are you trying to get me fired? I work damn hard every day just to have you backstab me at the first opportunity and then claim you are not malicious. What a joke!

    M

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