Human Resources Solutions
Voice Mail, E-Mail, Internet Access, and Computer Files Guidelines
Monitoring voice mail, e-mail and Internet use is generally legal so long as the employer establishes an appropriate policy and effectively communicates such policy to its workers. The policy must be non-discriminatory and it should prohibit all forms of non-business related communications. The policy must be uniformly enforced through employee education, ongoing monitoring and appropriate discipline. Obtaining prior consent also serves to diminish an employees expectation of privacy and will generally protect employers from liability.
The key goal for an employer’s policy is to eliminate any employee expectations that these communications are confidential. As with any sample form, it must be adapted to the specific needs and situation of the employer. The policy should not be implemented without advice of your legal counsel or other qualified HR professional.
Checklist in developing a policy on employees use of the employers electronic communications and computer information systems:
- Define what systems are covered by the policy, e.g., voice mail, e-mail, Internet, and computer systems and files.
- Make clear that use of employers computer systems is to be used for business purposes only, and all files and messages are company property.
- If personal use is permitted, prohibit personal use that interferes with employees work or that of others (e.g., prohibiting non-work related websites such as chat rooms, games, travel, shopping, stock trading, hate/discrimination, pornography, etc.).
- Prohibit inappropriate use including transmitting or downloading of material that is discriminatory, defamatory, harassing, insulting, offensive, pornographic or obscene.
- Prohibit copying and sending any confidential or proprietary information, or software that is protected by copyright and other laws protecting intellectual property.
- Prohibit unauthorized access by employees of other employees electronic communications.
- Notify employees that any misuse will be subject to discipline, up to and including termination.
- Inform employees that employer may access, search and monitor voice mail, e-mail or company files of any employee that are created, stored or deleted from company computer systems.
- Advise employees they should not expect their communications or use of employers computer information systems to be confidential or private.
- Have employees sign company policy or notice on acceptable usage of employers computer information systems.
- Consider installing an on-screen warning on the employers electronic communications policy that appears every time employees log onto their computers.
Policy Against Unlawful Harassment, Including Sexual Harassment
XYZ Company is committed to maintaining a work environment that is free of harassment. In keeping with this commitment, we will not tolerate harassment of employees by anyone, including any manager, co-worker, client, supplier, vendor, independent contractor, or visitor. Similarly, any employee’s harassment of persons seeking employment with the Company, or harassment of our clients, suppliers, vendors, visitors, independent contractors, or anyone else who conducts, attempts to conduct or is solicited for business with the Company will not be tolerated.
The Company is committed to providing a workplace that is free from sexual harassment, as well as unlawful harassment based on ancestry, race, age, color, marital status, medical condition, mental disability, physical disability, pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions, national origin, religious creed, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or any other basis protected by federal, state, or local law, ordinance, or regulation. It also prohibits unlawful harassment based on the perception that anyone has any of those characteristics, or is associated with a person who has or is perceived as having any of those characteristics. All such harassment is unlawful.
Sexual harassment is one specifically prohibited type of harassment. Unwelcome or unwanted sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other physical, verbal, or visual conduct based on sex constitute sexual harassment. It is harassment when:
- Submission to the conduct is an explicit or implicit term or condition of employment.
- Submission to, or rejection of, the conduct is used as the basis for an employment decision.
- The conduct had the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s work performance or creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working environment.
Examples of types of unlawful harassment include:
- Verbal conduct such as epithets, derogatory comments, slurs, comments about an individual’s body or dress, dirty jokes, persistent request for dates, or unwanted sexual advances, invitations, or comments.
- Visual conduct such as derogatory cartoons, pictures, photographs, drawings, or gestures.
- Physical conduct such as assault, blocking normal movement, or interference with work directed at an individual because of his or her sex or other protected basis.
- Threats and demands to submit to sexual requests in order to keep a job or avoid some other loss, and offers of job benefits in return for sexual favors.
- Retaliation for having reported harassment.
All employees are responsible for helping to assure a workplace free of harassment. If an employee feels he/she has been subjected to any form of harassment, the employee should clearly tell the person engaging in the harassing and/or discriminating conduct that it is unwelcome, offensive, and should stop at once. Also, an employee who has experienced or witnessed harassment should immediately report the situation to their supervisor, Human Resources, or the President of the Company.
Any supervisor or manager, who becomes aware of alleged incidents of harassment, is to immediately report such incidents or refer any complaints to Human Resources. Retaliation against any employee for reporting a problem, filing a complaint, bringing inappropriate conduct to the Company’s attention, or participating in an investigation or proceeding is strictly prohibited.
It is the Company’s policy to investigate all reports or complaints of harassment thoroughly, promptly, and discreetly. To the extent possible, the confidentiality of an employee or any other person who has reported a problem and that of any witnesses and the alleged harasser will be protected against unnecessary disclosure. The outcome of the investigation and a timely resolution of each complaint will be reached and communicated to the employee and the other parties involved. If an investigation has concluded that harassment occurred, the Company will take appropriate remedial corrective action, up to and including discharge.
Co-workers can be held personally responsible for sexual harassment, meaning their personal assets are at risk. Any employee is personally liable if he or she engages in sexual harassment. This is true regardless of whether the employer knows or should have known of the contact and fails to take immediate and appropriate remedial/corrective action.
Employees should contact the Human Resources department directly with any questions.