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Adopt civility policy, punish disruptive behavior

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in Human Resources

The workplace is meant for working, and employers have the right to expect their employees to behave themselves. You can and should demand that all your employees treat each other, customers, supervisors and everyone else with dignity.

If you don’t already have a civility rule, consider adopting one. It will go a long way toward creating a good workplace environment. Plus, if an employee becomes a disruptive distraction, you can base your termination decision on violation of the civility rule.

Recent case: David Davenport worked as a history professor in the State Center Community College District in the Central Valley until he was fired after the administration got numerous complaints from students and others.

The complaints outlined Davenport’s rude and offensive interactions with others. He caused a near riot—the police had to be called—after he publicly posted a list of failing students in his classroom, saying those on the list couldn’t benefit from the education he was providing. On another occasion, Davenport allegedly screamed obscenities at a student while tearing up a paper she had written.

The college fired Davenport for harassment and refusing to obey the rules on behavior and dignity. He sued, alleging he had the right to treat students the way he saw fit and that he had simply been trying to motivate underachievers to succeed.

The court said the college did nothing wrong when it fired him. It was entitled to enforce its rules. (Davenport v. Board of Trustees, No. 1:07-00494, ED CA, 2009)

Final note: Here’s another reason to have and enforce a civility policy. Doing so can help prevent a hostile work environment claim. By enforcing the rule and disciplining violators, you’re showing that you fix problems promptly and aren’t contributing to harassment.

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