A Publication of WTVP

Suppose one of your employees sends an inappropriate email to other employees within your organization and you have no IT policy. Can you discipline or terminate that individual even if no one was “offended?” What if an employee in a vehicle owned by your organization is putting up political signs or spends long hours at the local tavern? Has this employee done anything worthy of a disciplinary action?

One of the examples above did occur within our organization, and we were limited in our response because we lacked an adequate policy. In Tazewell County, we are trying to mitigate our risk and protect our employees by developing, clarifying and updating many of our policies.

This team effort involves many people. Our administrator, the State’s Attorney, elected officials, appointed department heads, employees and our insurance company are all reviewing and giving input. We have also taken best practices and policies from other counties to create solutions that are proven solid. When we have developed or improved an existing policy, we send copies of the policy to all of our employees. They are given the chance to read the new policy, ask questions and get clarification on any points that may not be clear. Once they understand the changes, they are asked to sign the document, which is then placed in their personnel file.

An organization like Tazewell County has multiple departments and many managers, all with different styles of leadership. By having one base policy in each area, there is consistency in implementation and enforcement across all departments. This spares us from accusations of unfairness or favoritism that can result in litigation.

In addition to protecting the county from litigation and employee disputes, our people are also protected. When a policy is clearly written, people within that organization know what they can and cannot do. They also know the consequences when policies have been violated.

Our policies specifically discuss the issue involved and the behavior expected. The process and the penalty for violating any portion are also clearly stated, as well as how the manager will document the problem. Our goal is to identify issues, make updates and develop new policies on an ongoing basis.

This will be an ongoing project and will evolve over time as new areas of risk develop. Tazewell County has learned some critical lessons from experience, and we have also learned from other counties. Identifying risk and putting effective and enforceable policies into action will save money, reduce risk and help employees make wise and thoughtful choices in the workplace. iBi