Employee conduct: 9 essential topics to address

Essential Topics

Where does the fallout from off-kilter internet behavior wind up exactly?” In the courts”, says Jim Paul, attorney at Ogletree Deakins. Have you heard about the worker who simply farmed out his daily tasks to someone in China at a comically low pay rate?  He kicked back and watched cat videos all day after. How about the guy who got high one morning and went to work in a parks system populated by grizzly bears? He sued for workers’ comp benefits when he was attacked by one of the grizzly bears.


As employees blend the realms of work and private life thanks to technology they feel more empowered to express their beliefs. Because there are more laws encouraging and protecting the individual, your employee handbook is under assault. There exists a preemptive strategy to protect the company. If followed carefully, it might be able to endure changing marijuana laws or workers blasting you on Facebook.

What you need to do

Put a check mark beside each of the following bullet points after your organization establishes a firm policy on it.  Your employees need to sign off on it. The lack of clear, legal policy is what employees can use to insist you’ve overstepped your boundaries. Don’t interfere with personal expression.

Technology and legal changes

Technology and legal changes have made it more difficult to regulate employee conduct. And the lines have blurred between what’s considered on-the-job versus off-the-job conduct. As a result, employers are confused about where and when they can put their foot down.

Marijuana use

Marijuana use: Several states have legalized medical marijuana, consequently those state laws often remain at odds with federal ones. In the Colorado case Coats v. Dish Network, there was a question.”Can you fire someone for pot use in a state where it’s deemed lawful if federal law still holds?”

Safety issues, workers’ comp issues, and the individual’s right to practice a lifestyle that may be totally at odds with the company’s values are at stake.

Smartphones and safety

Smartphones and safety: Your workers are out on the road every day, sending off a quick email to the boss at a stoplight or checking directions to a client’s office as they cruise along at 60 mph.

What do you have in writing that states they must not engage in distracted driving while on the job?

Companies like Smith Barney and International Paper were forced into settlements after their employees caused accidents while distracted. As a bare minimum, Paul suggests instituting a hands-free policy for employees who feel the need to communicate while at the wheel.

Bring your own device policiesemployee handbook

Bring Your Own Device policies: 82% of companies allow workers to use their own laptops, phones and tablets. It helps IT, boosts efficiency and increases retention. The question would be, who owns the information on those devices, who can monitor it, who can search for it? In the case of Lazette v. Kulmatycki, an employer would be accused of violating the Stored Communications Act by digging into a smartphone the employer itself had issued. There would be the data security question: Keep in mind the New York health care provider that had to tell 2,700 members that their data had been hacked because an employee’s device was stolen.

The LinkedIn problem

The LinkedIn problem: Nothing blurs the line between work and private life like LinkedIn. Information about your company and an employee’s affiliation with it sits there day after day, and you are urging someone to use her account to promote you. If she’s separated from the job, who owns the posts she created? What if she never indicates she’s left your employment, creating the illusion she still works for you? According to Paul, much depends on who created the account and when.

Off-the-clock communications

Off-the-clock communications: Do you know at what point harmless, casual email checking becomes “significant” work? Or perhaps, when a phone call to an employee at home should start their time clock? The law can’t yet be completely clear about it,  your company policy needs to be. Worst-case scenario (aside from committing FLSA violations): You have to crawl to IT to ask them to shut your network down after hours because it becomes too hard to keep workers from squeezing in the extra effort. Don’t let it come to that.

Remember, you ARE the boss of your employees. It would be important to know your rights when it comes to managing and regulating their behavior — both in and out of the workplace.

Web surfing

Web surfing: A worker, found to be checking forbidden sites, would be disciplined. As a result, a
year later, a court finds that you should have gone to the authorities. As a result,  his surfing was actually hinting at a future illegal activity that you should have predicted. It is an extreme case that actually happened. A more likely problem is that employees will just spend too much time conducting personal business on the clock. Above all, be specific about the exact sorts of sites you forbid, and the parameters of how much time you’ll allow workers to wander the net.

Device privacyHR manager

Device privacy: In Steingart v. Loving Care, a court said that even on work computers, employees have an expectation of privacy if accessing personal email. In Holmes v. Petrovich Development, the result seems to be the opposite. The issue of how deep you can dig into someone’s device, would still be up in the air. Furthermore, make no assumptions of what to expect if an employee cries foul.

Dress codes

Dress codes: Ever heard of the Church of Body Modification? Costco fired an employee with facial piercings when she violated their grooming policy, claiming a deep belief in the church’s principles. The court sided with Costco on this. “My opinion is that the Costco decision would have gone the other way if it had come up more recently,” Paul says. Since then, Red Robin, Jiffy Lube, and Abercrombie and Fitch have all found themselves on the losing end.

Social media

Social media: Who doesn’t get upset hearing the story of the employee working for a social media agency who accidentally logged into a corporate account rather than a personal one, an account that just happened to be Chrysler’s? The result would be a quick termination and Chrysler not renewing their contract with that social media firm. The scary things about social media are its lightning speed and the fact that nothing can be taken back once it gets out.



Use These Five Ideas to Build a High-Performing Team


High Performing Team

What exactly is a high performing team? It is a team that exceeds the goals you set by working hard and smart as a group, not individuals. Because it is a team that enjoys working together, therefore most teams do not reach the high-performing stage. Most importantly, they are special when you finally achieve this feat because you can help a team reach a high-performing state with a number of basic steps.

Plan What the Team Will Look Like

Before you bring on your first person, document what it is that your team has to achieve and when because this can be done through a project charter or another document. Therefore, it is important that the team have a common understanding of their purpose and expectations.

Therefore think about the team culture you want to build, the dynamics of your team and how they should work together because this can be defined in a team charter.

Add the Right People

Building the right team is harder than it looks, therefore it is easy to recruit the wrong person, and it is even easier to build a team that doesn’t perform well, therefore you cannot pick and choose each team member. When you can, choose candidates that fit the job description, align with good interpersonal skills, most importantly, bring in people that can get along well with others. I have never seen a high-performing team made up of people that want to work by themselves.

Create a Team Culture

If you’ve hired like-minded people, get them working together on tasks, therefore, constantly change the people you pair up, because people get to know others in the team. Strengthen the relationship between the team and your customers, therefore finding opportunities to get the team socializing together. High-performing teams share a common team culture. Try to get the team this consistent culture as soon as possible.

Motivate the Team – and Yourself

A happy motivated team will always out-perform an unhappy unmotivated one, therefore it starts with you. Are you happy and motivated? Because your motivation will rub off on your team. If you are motivated, focus on motivating your team. The manager can show team building and group rallying exercises to get them pumped up. Tell them how proud you are to work with them. Help them understand why the goals are important and how every team member contributes to them.

Step 5. Recognize Accomplishments

People respond positively to positive behavior, therefore you need to constantly recognize achievement when it’s due. The manager needs to tell the team about an individual’s success. Make them feel proud. Spread the love—don’t focus on one team or person too frequently.

If you plan for success, recruit a great team, build a positive culture, motivate the team and recognize achievement, because you will build a healthy project team and boost your chances of success!

(Some material in this newsletter was used with permission from HR Employment Law.)

5 Killer Questions to Ask to hire the best employee

  • Management Services


  • Hiring expert Mel Kleiman sat in on a job interview recently that demonstrated why it is easy for candidates to defraud the process, because a manager brought in an applicant,  therefore explaining exactly what the job required saying to the applicant, “So tell me a little bit about yourself.”

Most importantly, the person was not an idiot. She had listened carefully, and immediately recited qualities and attitudes that perfectly mirrored the manager’s needs. She described herself as dependable, reliable, and conscientious, therefore a wondrous match for the job she’d just spent two minutes hearing about. Besides that, who would have thought such a diamond would be discovered so quickly?


The manager had accidentally given up control of the interview, as many do.  Your goal is to hire the best employee, but too often you end up hiring the “best applicant.” To change that, you must develop a system that doesn’t focus on the packaging, but most importantly on the product inside. Here are five questions that Mel Kleiman suggests will help you dig deeper:


“Tell me about the achievement you’re most proud of.” It is not the achievement itself that matters, it is how they did it. Get an applicant to relate the steps and the hurdles it took to accomplish that magic. Immerse them in that golden memory and they will begin to expound without a script.


“On a scale of 1 to 10, how would you rank yourself as a …” Many managers will unwisely obsess over the number they hear besides that number is the least important part. What you’re looking for is a sophisticated level of self-analysis and self-awareness, therefore you want to know what has made someone a 6 or a 10. A good follow-up question is, “What do you think it would take to get your number higher in that area?”


“Did your last company do performance appraisals?” Ask how the applicant felt about the process and the results because in  today’s world, because it is hard to get references, and this is your chance to learn what a former boss wrote down on paper. If you feel confident in scheduling a second interview, ask that a copy of a recent evaluation show up.


“If you could ask me just one question about the job or the organization, what would it be?” This one’s a bit of a trick because Kleiman says it does not matter what the answer is; your follow-up should always be the same: “Wow, what an interesting question. What made you ask that one above all?” The goal here is to reveal what the person’s #1 true motivator at work is. If you listen close, it is likely to be in their response.


“How did you prepare yourself for this interview?” Many interviewers like to ask “What do you know about our company?” But the “how did you prepare” question shows you how much they want the job because it is what they are willing to do to get it.

Sexual Harassment: Old vs. New Rules

  • Sexual harassment has maximized in front-page headlines. Is your organization next in line for a colossal complaint or a #MeToo hashtag complaint?The old HR rules for preventing and confronting harassment charges have changed. If you are still relying on 20-year-old prevention, training and complaint policies, you could be in a dilemma.

    Do you understand your rights?

    • ​Discover the newest practices for preventing, investigating and remedying sexual harassment in the workplace.
    • Learn how to develop a program that will not only meet compliance requirements but also ​change employees’ behavior. 

    What is considered unlawful “harassment” in today’s workplace? Many types of harassment exist today from when the Supreme Court first defined sexual harassment and created an employer defense.

    • How do you craft a lawsuit-proof anti-harassment and discrimination program? Understand what to say, how to say it and when.
    • How to draft a new policy for responding to complaints against key employees
    • ​Why your harassment training needs to be up close and personal (Find out how to create company wide sessions so that everyone from the janitor to CEO takes it seriously!)
    • Steps to revamp your complaint process fostering an environment where victims feel supported, free of shame, and free from shaming

    What to do as an HR professional if a complaint involves a high-level executive or other key person – who do you call and how fast do you act?


    Don Swift

Disciplining Employees for Absenteeism

Absenteeism and Excuses

Employers hear all the excuses. “My alarm didn’t go off.” “My car broke down.” “My babysitter didn’t show up.” “I have a terrible cold.”  Sometimes those excuses for being absent or late ring true. However, chronic absenteeism and tardiness become major problems in the workplace, consequently wreaking havoc on productivity as well as morale.

You would think getting an employee to show up on time every day would be a simple matter. However, these days you really can’t simply say, “Be here or be fired” when an employee walks through the door late or not at all. Accordingly, you must add in legal factors such as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).

Delicate Strategies

For this reason, business owners and managers must employ strategies that combat absenteeism. Nonetheless, they must also remain on the right side of the legal line.

Disciplining employees requires a delicate balancing act. Push too hard and you alienate people. Tiptoe around the core issue and you confuse people. It’s never easy, and most managers never learned how.

Eight Do’s and Don’ts

When it comes to disciplining an employee for absenteeism, several different strategies are available for your use. Deciding which one works best for you isn’t always cut and dried. Avoid making disciplinary mistakes could lead your company to court by following these do’s and don’ts:

√ DO figure out an acceptable level of absences, if your organization does not specify a maximum number. Think about how many days an employee could miss without significantly sacrificing work quality.

× DON’T penalize employees who have a legal reason to be late or absent. Such reasons should be specified, e.g., physical therapy, alcohol treatment, or leaving early for a doctor’s appointment. Consequently, the same goes for employees who have a legitimate reason to be late or absent using earned company benefits, like personal days.

√ DO make sure you understand who gets the last word on any gray areas in dispute about any policy that affects attendance.

× DON’T undermine your company’s absenteeism policy by ignoring any step that seems convenient. It can lead to charges that the rules were applied in an arbitrary or discriminatory manner.

√ DO recognize the difference between the employee who was out one day all year—even if you suspect it wasn’t for a good reason—and the employee who has a chronic problem. Adjust your discipline accordingly.

× DON’T get bent out of shape if an employee challenges your interpretation of any policy that deals with attendance. Work it out.

√ DO begin documenting absences as soon as you notice a trend. Record dates, hours absent, and the reason the employee gives for them.

× DON’T put employees in the impossible situation of choosing their jobs over their health or family responsibilities. That could be a violation of the FMLA.

Effective Communication

No manager enjoys disciplining employees. In fact, it’s an important part of the job.  I you do it the right way, you can help a misbehaving employee solve a problem — or get rid of an employee who is a problem.

Effective managers communicate concern, redirect unruly behavior, and confront wrongdoing.  At the same time, they maintain a respectful tone. They leave no room for misunderstanding or misinterpretation.