Why Workplace Policies Are Important

Workplace policies define a company's responsibilities and obligations to its employees and customers and vice versa. They also define company expectations and standards. Policies are written for both legal and practical purposes. Some policies explain how the company complies with certain laws and regulations. Some policies delineate procedures and expectations. In most situations, you inherit the policies you must comply with and enforce.

Company policies cover a broad spectrum of topics, but their bottom line is simple. Policies tell employees how to behave. Most company policies are in place to ensure safety in the workplace as well as fair treatment for employees. Most company policies evolve from efforts to interpret and apply laws and regulations, and they thus have a component of compliance that has legal undertones. You might appear to be in compliance when in fact you're not — a situation that can create problems for you as the responsible manager as well as for your company.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, or EEOC, is the federal agency charged with overseeing compliance with federal laws and regulations aimed at supporting fairness and preventing discrimination in the workplace. These include Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, and the Equal Pay Act. The EEOC receives about 80,000 charges, or complaints alleging discrimination, a year. Roughly 10 percent of those are charges of sexual harassment and 14 percent are harassment of other kinds.

Other company policies stipulate actions and behaviors important to the company. Your company may have policies that spell out what kinds of jewelry you can wear to work, for example, or which employees must sign noncompete agreements as a condition of employment. Most companies have policies that define the company's attendance expectations, promotion procedures, and scheduled work hours. Departments may further have policies that define their procedures and expectations.

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