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Creating Employee Policies

Small businesses may be able to prevent and correct discrimination without the use of formal, written employee policies. For example, you may inform employees that discrimination is prohibited and encourage employees to report discrimination to you promptly.

Even so, you may decide to develop written policies. Developing and distributing clear employee policies, updating the policies as needed, and consistently enforcing the policies may:

  • Help employees understand and comply with your rules and expectations;
  • Help prevent problems that may result in discrimination complaints; and
  • Limit your liability should a complaint arise.

Even if you decide not to have written policies, the following information may be helpful when developing your workplace rules and expectations.

What type of policy are you creating?

General Non-Discrimination Policy Tips

 

  • State that you will provide reasonable accommodations (changes to the way things are normally done at work) to applicants and employees who need them for medical or religious reasons, as required by law.*

 

  • Explain how employees can report discrimination.
    • If possible, designate more than one person to receive and respond to discrimination complaints or questions.
    • Consider permitting employees to report discrimination to any manager.

 

  • State that employees will not be punished for reporting discrimination, participating in a discrimination investigation or lawsuit or opposing discrimination.

 

  • State that you will protect the confidentiality of employees who report discrimination or participate in a discrimination investigation, to the greatest possible extent.

 

  • Require managers and other employees with human resources responsibilities to respond appropriately to discrimination or to report it to individuals who are authorized to respond.

 

  • Provide for prompt, thorough and impartial investigation of complaints.

 

  • Provide for prompt and effective corrective and preventative action when necessary.

 

  • Consider requiring that employees who file internal complaints be notified about the status of their complaint, the results of the investigation and any corrective and preventative action taken.

 

  • Describe the consequences of violating the non-discrimination policy.

 

Federal, state and local laws may prohibit additional types of discrimination and/or require you to provide reasonable accommodations for other reasons. Federal, state and local government websites may have additional information about these laws.

 

Harassment Policy Tips

 

  • Explain how employees can report harassment.

 

  • State that you will protect the confidentiality of employees who report harassment or participate in a harassment investigation, to the greatest possible extent.

 

  • State that employees will not be punished for reporting harassment or participating in a harassment investigation or lawsuit.

 

  • Require managers and other employees with human resources responsibilities to respond appropriately to harassment or to report it to individuals who are authorized to respond.

 

  • Provide for prompt, thorough and impartial investigation of harassment complaints.

 

 

  • Consider requiring that employees who file internal complaints be notified about the status of their complaint, the results of the investigation and any corrective and preventative action taken.

 

  • Describe the consequences of violating the harassment policy.

 

Federal, state and local laws may prohibit additional types of harassment. Federal, state and local government websites may have additional information about these laws.

 

Reasonable Accommodation Policy

  • Specify that your business provides reasonable accommodations (changes to the way things are normally done at work) to applicants and employees who need them for medical or religious reasons, as required by law.*

 

 

  • Identify and provide contact information for the individual(s) responsible for handling reasonable accommodation requests.

 

  • Require managers to respond promptly and effectively to reasonable accommodation requests.

 

 

  • Consider requiring that applicants and employees be updated on the status of their accommodation requests, especially if identification and/or provision of the accommodation takes longer than expected.

 

  • Consider proposing temporary accommodation(s) if the agreed-upon accommodation cannot be provided immediately.

 

  • Explain that in certain circumstances, you may need to request additional medical or religious information or documentation to establish whether the individual’s medical condition or religious beliefs are protected by law, or to determine whether and what type(s) of accommodations would be effective. Encourage applicants and employees to respond to these requests promptly.

 

  • Require managers to keep any medical information received as part of an accommodation request or during the accommodation process confidential and in a separate medical file.

 

  • Consider requiring that decisions to either deny accommodation requests or to provide accommodations other than the requested accommodation(s) be explained to the applicant or employee. This may help prevent misunderstandings and complaints.

 

  • Explain how employees can report discrimination related to reasonable accommodations (such as improper denial of a reasonable accommodation request).

 

  • Describe the consequences of violating the reasonable accommodation policy.

 

Federal, state and local laws may require you to provide reasonable accommodations for other reasons. Federal, state and local government websites may have additional information about these laws.

 

Manager Responsibilities – Reasonable Accommodation Tips

The laws enforced by the EEOC require employers to provide reasonable accommodations (changes to the way things are normally done at work) because of an employee’s disability or religious beliefs, in certain circumstances.*

Ensuring that managers understand their reasonable accommodation responsibilities may help prevent disability discrimination and religious discrimination.

You may decide to designate one person, or a small group of people, to handle reasonable accommodation requests. If so, ensure that this person or group of people understands:

Managers who are not designated to handle reasonable accommodation requests also have responsibilities. In particular, ensure that they understand:

  • Your business’s rules and policies regarding reasonable accommodation;
  • How to recognize a request for a disability accommodation or a religious accommodation ;
  • Who to contact if they receive a disability accommodation or religious accommodation request;
  • The importance of keeping requests for disability accommodation confidential;
  • The fact that there are strict rules about when employers may legally request medical information from applicants or employees; and
  • The importance of keeping any medical information obtained as a result of a reasonable accommodation request confidential and in a separate medical file.

Leave Policy Tips

  • Explain the circumstances under which leave is available, the eligibility requirements for leave, the procedures for requesting leave and the respective responsibilities of the business and the employee during and after the leave period.
  • Clarify that you will provide leave to employees who need it for medical or religious reasons, as required by law.
    • You may be required to provide medical or religious leave even if you do not have a leave policy, the employee requesting leave has not earned enough leave, or the employee has exhausted her leave:
      • You are required to provide employees with leave for medical reasons related to a disability (to attend a doctor’s appointment or to recover from surgery, for example) unless it would be significantly difficult or expensive for your business.
      • You are required to provide employees with leave for religious reasons (to attend religious services or to observe a religious holiday, for example) unless it would require more than minimal cost or burden for your business.
  • Consider recommending that a manager meet with the employee requesting leave and the employee’s manager if necessary to clarify the leave request or to solicit other relevant information.
    • For example, it may be helpful to discuss the employee’s current workload, upcoming deadlines and temporary transfer of responsibilities.
  • Require managers to respond promptly to leave requests.
    • If a prompt response is not possible, consider periodically updating the employee on the status of his request.
  • To prevent misunderstandings, consider recommending that decisions to modify or deny leave requests be explained to the employee.
  • Require that managers keep genetic information or medical information received as a result of a leave request confidential and in a separate medical file.

These tips are based on federal employment discrimination laws. Other laws, such as workers’ compensation laws and family and medical leave laws, may also apply to your business. Federal, state and local government websites may have information about these laws.

 

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