Policies for Employees for Your Legal Protection

While there's no single way to completely protect yourself from legal challenges by employees and third parties, there are actions you can take to create some insulation above and beyond any insurance you may carry for protection. These policies may be included in your employee handbook.

Driving policies
Employees who drive their vehicles or company-owned vehicles for company business should be required to follow company policy about driving. Points to include in a company policy:
  • Maintaining valid licenses: Employees must report any changes (e.g., license suspension) to the company.
  • No distracted driving: No texting or calling while behind the wheel. Many states have laws prohibiting these actions, but even without laws, you can make it company policy. Find details about distracted driving here.
  • No impaired driving -- period: No driving should be done when under the influence of alcohol or other drugs, including medications that can impair driving ability (labels on prescription and over-the-counter medications provide warnings).
  • Restrict the use of company-owned vehicles: Ban personal driving of company-owned vehicles, other than for commuting.
  • Reporting of vehicle incidences: Require immediate reporting of any accident or violation to the company, even if the employee drives his/her own vehicle.
Social media policies
A company can't unduly restrict the free speech of employees (which could violate federal labor law), but it can set policies for email, Twitter, blogging, and other social media activities that help to shield a company from legal exposure. Points to include in a company policy:
  • Encourage employees to use common sense etiquette to respect others and not reveal personal information that could identify colleagues, clients, vendors, or others they interact with professionally.
  • Prohibit any sharing of proprietary information (the type that is covered by your nondisclosure agreement with employees).
  • Restrict who may speak or write on behalf of your company, and also set guidelines for how these individuals should obtain prior permission from an owner or manager.
There's a database of social media policies that may help you craft your own policy.
Safety policies
Obviously, you want a physically safe and secure workplace that not only complies with government requirements but also makes employees feel emotionally safe and protected to the extent possible. Points to include in a company policy:
  • Steps required to be followed for specific tasks (e.g., wearing protective gear)
  • Education of staff on safety procedures
  • How to report workplace accidents and other incidents
Sexual harassment
Company policy against sexual harassment should include not only the stated policy against such behavior, but also include education and procedures for dealing with incidents if they arise.
  • Define sexual harassment.
  • Outline how to report an incident.
  • Include the consequences to the employee who violates company policy.
A handy sample policy from the South Dakota Department of Labor and Regulation can be found here. Check your state's laws with your attorney.
While there is a great deal of information online about these and other workplace policies, be sure to run your ideas past your attorney to make sure they comply with your state's laws as well as federal rules.

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