As employers, you spend a substantial amount of time and resources selecting your employees; and you trust that your investment has generated an honest, hard-working group of people. So, who needs a policy on ethics? Your employees know right from wrong, don’t they?

Ethics policies are more than sandbox rules known to every employee. Like a wellness program, an ethics program is a way of life that should be embodied in the operation of your business, top-down and in every respect.

There are many reasons to have an ethics policy. In addition to civil lawsuits, employers can be held criminally liable for their employees’ conduct, and a key way to prevent criminal conduct from happening is to train your employees to work ethically. One function of your policy should be to raise awareness and sensitivity to ethical issues and provide a mechanism for handling them. If criminal violations should occur, the existence of an effective ethics program may lessen the fines or penalties your organization could face. Check out the United States Sentencing Commission’s website at for guidance on creating an Effective Compliance and Ethics Program.

Another reason for or benefit of an ethics policy is less misconduct from your workforce. A management philosophy that embraces ethics not only makes employees conduct themselves ethically, it makes them more likely to report the misconduct of others. In the employment law field, this proclivity makes it more likely that defenses to harassment and discrimination claims will be preserved.

Obviously, the biggest (no-brainer) reason for having an ethics policy is that it’s the right thing to do. Most employers know this, but sometimes overlook the added ‘legal’ perks and protections that one can provide. And that’s without even considering the benefits that are harder to measure, like increased employee morale, an enhanced public image, and consistency throughout your operation. It’s like a wellness program for your organization.

So now that we’re reminded how important it is to have an ethics policy, what elements comprise a good one? For those ethical details, be sure you check this blog again soon.

Vanessa Towarnicky's primary focus is in the area of labor and employment law. She has been involved in representing clients in various employment cases, including sexual harassment; deliberate intent; age, race, and disability discrimination; wrongful discharge; and various other employment-related torts. She is admitted to various state and federal courts as well as the Third Circuit Court of Appeals and Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals.
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