Nine Do’s and Don’ts for Enforcing Office Policies

You have office policies. You review them annually and have your employees sign an acknowledgement of having received them. Now you have to enforce them.

Enforcing policies “is one of the hardest things for an employer to do for a variety of reasons,” says the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC). “It is very common for employers to decide not to enforce a policy because they feel that the employee deserves a break, even though the policy was fair and the employee clearly broke the rules. In these cases, employers often regret their decision because they lose unemployment claims due to inconsistencies in policy enforcement,” TWC says.

Don’t let this happen to you. TWC offers these tips for policy enforcement. Read the details in TWC’s Texas Business Today.

  1. Don’t “counsel” your employees; warn them. Even though you care about them and want to help them improve, you need to be clear that they could be fired if they continue to make that same mistake.
  2. Do enforce your policies every time to avoid condoning an employee’s actions. If you suddenly fire an employee for an action you ignored in the past, it could look like there is another (possibly illegal) reason for firing him or her. Likewise, a final warning should be just that: a final warning. 
  3. Don’t wait too long to give your employee a warning. Employers frequently lose unemployment cases, TWC says, because the incident warranting the reprimand was “too remote in time;” the employee may argue that there must have been an alternate reason for receiving the warning. If you have a good reason for a delay, keep good records to justify your actions.
  4. Don’t apply your policies retroactively. Don’t warn an employee about conduct you don’t have an actual policy forbidding, even if you wish you did. An exception might apply if the employee commits a severe criminal violation (that you can prove and is related to work).
  5. Don’t pick and choose whom you warn. You can lose all credibility in such a case because it suggests favoritism. Apply your policies fairly and equally to everyone.
  6. Don’t give “blanket warnings” to all of your employees. If one employee violates a policy, warn that person but don’t warn everyone. If you do, not only will you have a hard time winning your appeal, but also you may expose yourself to a discrimination lawsuit. 
  7. If you have a progressive disciplinary policy, follow it. Don’t skip steps unless your policy clearly allows for it.
  8. Don’t enforce illegal policies. If you warn or fire an employee for violating a policy that happens to be illegal, you can lose your unemployment claim and expose yourself to additional liability. 
  9. Keep adequate records of policy enforcement. You can lose credibility when you appear to be unclear about the details of the incidents.

If you don’t have written office policies, or are not confident about your policies, TMA’s Policies and Procedures: A Guide for Medical Practices is the place to start. This customizable guide contains more than 200 up-to-date sample policies and procedures, tools, sample letters, and forms for Texas practices. Or use TMA’s customizable Employee Handbook for Medical Practices to create employment policies for your practice. 

Check out other human resources (HR) help that comes with TMA membership, including special pricing on HR consulting services and TMA’s Human Resources Skills Development Workshop for physicians and managers. Registration is open for workshops in San Antonio, Houston, Dallas, and Austin. 

Published May 14, 2016

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Last Updated On

December 07, 2016

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