Q. I’d like to institute a civility code that goes beyond the basic racial and sexual slurs to include any name-calling that is demeaning, crude or rude. What do you suggest as punishment?
A. You can certainly prohibit racial and sexual slurs that are based on a protected category. However, your proposal is a little different.
You can implement a general civility code, but you must make sure it does not run afoul of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). The NLRA grants employees the right to engage in concerted activities for the purpose of collective bargaining or other mutual aid or protection. That can include criticism (of working conditions or co-workers) that you might consider rude or demeaning.
The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) is assertive in protecting employees’ ability to engage in protected concerted activity. For example, it has found it a violation of the NLRA to prohibit employees from making disparaging comments and using inappropriate, offensive, rude or discourteous language.
If you implement a general civility code, consider narrowing the scope of prohibited conduct. Avoid vague or broad language, and add limiting language so employees understand you are not prohibiting activity protected under the NLRA.
Finally, as to your question about punishment, you should treat a violation of the civility code like a violation of any other policy.