Ask the Experts

Ask the Experts: Owners need policies to protect themselves, their companies

vbridges@newsobserver.comNovember 11, 2013 

  • Need advice?

    Do you need expert advice on a small-business issue? If so, let us know. Email Shop Talk Editor Jessaca Giglio at

Many small-business owners start their own company to escape the policies, procedures and paperwork associated with large corporations.

“But there is a critical purpose to some of those trappings of corporate America,” said John Szymankiewicz, a licensed engineer and attorney in Raleigh. Szymankiewicz’s practice focuses on small-business issues such as corporate formation, contracts and employee issues.

Here are his edited comments on creating company policies:

If an owner or employee discriminates against or sexually harasses another employee, the owner and company could be sued by the employee, and the business also could be subject to action taken by the government for violating that person’s civil rights.

Documented policies, procedures and training show that the company does not condone the behavior and should not be held responsible.

Company policies should outline specific acceptable and unacceptable behavior and consequences such as termination. Employees should be trained on the policies and the training should be documented and kept in employees’ files.

At a minimum, businesses should have a policy against discrimination that includes race, gender and national origin, as well as sexual harassment, workplace violence, substance abuse and theft.

Employees should also sign and date that they have received a copy of the policies.

This will show that conduct was prohibited by the company and that the responsibility should be placed on the individual employee and not the business.

However, business owners need to be sure they are enforcing the polices and that employees are following them. When issues arise, owners should immediately address the problem and document the violation and consequences.

Owners should also let employees know when policies change or are updated, and employees need to be trained on changes.

Bridges: 919-829-8917; Twitter: @virginiabridges

News & Observer is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service