Thursday, October 1, 2009

But I don't want to be the Policy Police - practical application

There have been extensive and lively conversations about HR not being the Policy Police and changing the way HR views itself. There has also been commentary in the blogosphere about the evils of lawyers telling us to not use social media for backgrounds on candidates because it will get us sued. The esteemed thought leaders Laurie Rueittmann, Kris Dunn and Mike VanDervort and many others have weighed in with there own thoughts on these topics.

Combining HR and technology – the next dilemma comes down the pike, wrapping all of these topics into one. North Carolina and 13 other states have banned texting and email while driving. President Obama has signed an executive order banning federal employees from the same practices. The North Carolina law goes into effect December 1, 2009.

So, the HR Professional gut instinct kicks in when I hear this and says “Lovely, another policy to write.” But the progressive, strategic and altogether libertarian and technology friendly idealist in me says “Wait – can we simply make an announcement that the law has been passed, and trust our adult employees to follow the law?”

The trick is the legal concept of respondeat superior – in that an employer may be held liable for injuries to a third person caused by the employee’s negligence.

So my employee is making sales calls, and he receives a text from a client. He responds while driving and in the course of his texting, is involved in an injury causing crash. His texting is found to be the cause of the accident under the new North Carolina law, and suddenly we are liable for the injuries to the person he hit.

How would you advise your senior management in regard to policy stance in this instance? Do you treat your employees as the adults they are, and expect them to follow the rules of the road? Or do you write the policy to include our beloved phrase “violation may result in discipline up to and including termination”?

1 comment:

Jeff said...

Great questions, Tammy. I don't work in HR, but it seems like there's a bigger question: How can companies indemnify themselves against this now-illegal behavior?