June 2014 Newsletter
This month we discuss the issue of employees using profanity in the workplace. Employers and managers may not know what to do when an employee becomes vulgar at work. And depending on the severity, and how often it occurs, you could even be facing a lawsuit from other employees!
Employees Using Profanity
While we all try to ensure the workplace is a professional environment, occasionally someone is bound to screw up. We will first look at what potential liability your company can be in, then what your company should do in order to avoid this liability.
It is important to note that one or two instances of profanity are not likely to create any hostile work environment claims, but, even so, you are going to want to discuss the issue with the employees involved and discipline according to your company policy.
While the use of profanity on its own is not normally enough to create a hostile work environment, if an employee can show that they were subject to this unwelcomed conduct based on a protected category (for example because of their gender, religion, or race) then they may have a cause of action.
Generally this conduct must be severe or pervasive enough to create a continuous pattern or practice of harassment, and it must be offensive to a reasonable person. It would take very offensive comments for one instance to constitute a hostile work environment, but it is possible.
But the real question for you is how to avoid this liability.
What Should You Do
It is important to have set policies on unwanted behavior. It is also nice if you have a set policy for how you handle disciplinary procedures. A sample behavior policy could be as simple as:
- “Employees who fail to maintain proper standards of conduct toward their work, their co-workers or the Company’s customers, or who violate any of the Company’s policies, are subject to appropriate disciplinary action, up to and including discharge.”
Directly after an employee has breached the behavior policy it will be important to not only discuss the matter with that individual, but also with anyone who was exposed to the event. You will want to discipline the perpetrator according to company policy. As the other employees who were around the incident, simply know that this type of behavior is not tolerated, and the company is looking into the event.
By having measures in place your company can mitigate, and possibly even eliminate, any claims of a hostile work environment.
Inevitably someone is going to lose his or her head in the workplace. It is important that when something like that occurs that your management is prepared to handle the situation. Having clear policies on behavior, and discipline, can save your company thousands of dollars and countless hours of additional work! Be sure to be on top of the situation, and deal with the situation as your policies provide (no more or less punishment)!
Human Resource Solutions will be glad to answer any questions you may have regarding this, or any other, employment issue you are having. Contact Us!