Saturday, April 23, 2011

Reasonable Suspicion Trap #1: "I haven't had a drink since last night!"

In the heat of the moment, this excuse can seem quite reasonable, especially for those of us who have had a few late nights ourselves. Here's something you probably won't consider in the heat of the moment--just how long ago was "last night"? And, quite frankly, its irrelevant. Is the smell there? But, let's play along for a minute.

Depending on when your employee stopped drinking, it can be as few as 3-4 of hours.

Knocking off at 4am and catching a couple hours of sleep before work may fool your employee into thinking it's a new day, but he can't fool his body. Sleeping doesn't metabolize alcohol and sober you up any faster than if you were awake.

But isn't even 4 hours long enough to sober up? Not necessarily. Don't make the mistake of projecting your own consumption habits onto your employee. He may have consumed an amount that far exceeds your own capacity. An alcoholic with a high tolerance who drinks 12 beers, and then quits at midnight will still be drunk the next day at 8 a.m., and especially if there are any sort liver problems. And they're probably are.

Employees who have a high tolerance to alcohol could have their last drink late at night and still be under the influence well after sunrise. They don't have to drink just before coming to work or first thing in the morning to be under the influence. Don't let this statement convince you that a test is unnecessary.

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Friday, April 22, 2011

Hey, what a great group of cool people we have in our office

Okay so you have nice informal work environment, no ties, everybody "high-fiving", no problems--even a softball team! So you make frequent "crude" and embarrassing sexual remarks to both men and women in your work group. Not one has ever complained, plus you're not talking and much less not targeting anyone. Hey, it like TV! You know, "that's what she said". You're pretty "rowdy" group and some of us even respond with approval at times. It can't be sexual harassment if no one person is the "target" of this behavior, right.

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That would be great, and just like TV, but unfortunately, the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals (one that many don't particularly enjoy hearing from) recently ruled that harassing, abusive, and crude remarks can constitute sexual harassment, even though a supervisor directed the comments to all employees. The important question to ask in all sexual harassment cases is this: Is the supervisor's conduct sufficiently severe or pervasive to alter the conditions of employment and create a hostile or abusive working environment. If so, the issue turns to whether the employer, when informed of the abusive behavior, took prompt action to remedy the situation. If supervisors remember this description, much of the gray area of questionable behavior will become clear. Also, even if a supervisor's conduct is equally degrading to both men and women, it does not make the conduct immune from liability for sexual harassment.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Do Investigations Correctly So You Don't Investigated Later!

Are there commonly used guidelines for investigating incidents in the workplace associated with disturbing employee conduct?

Well, Rule #1--talk to your human resource manager or other adviser to you don't blow this one. That being said, investigations follow a logical path to gather information about an event so that a reliable conclusion about what happened can be drawn. You must start of thinking that you are on a hopscotch. You're going to take it one square at a time.

Many organizations have specific procedures to follow concerning things like sexual harassment and other severe events, so inquire about how to conduct these types of investigations.

Generally speaking, consider these steps when investigating other conduct-related incidents: First, notify your supervisor about any incident you think needs investigating. Next, interview parties separately, and in private (ask for all details, and ask for the names of any witnesses). Create a written list of your questions so things stay consistent. Third, keep the information you collect confidential from others you interview - persons involved in an investigation are not entitled to the results of your interviews. Fourth, do not form opinions as you investigate - just write down exactly what is said and move quickly in your investigation; and fifth, arrive at a conclusion - do not disclose the nature of administrative or disciplinary actions, if any, to complainants or witnesses. With this information, discuss your findings with a confidentially approved party. That could be an attorney, but do not forget your employee assistance program professional. Lots of confidentiality there. This might be your final stop before a decision or taking the results to the next level of management.