[an error occurred while processing this directive][an error occurred while processing this directive]
Columns   NEHRA   Diversity   HR in The Globe   Faces & Places   HR Blog   HR Events  
Ask the HR Expert



Understanding work smoking policies

Is there a standard procedure for work smoking policies? We are updating our standard operating procedures and could use some guidance on the smoking policies that are common for today. Thanks

How employers handle smoking in the workforce varies. Thanks to the Massachusetts Smoke-free Workplace Law, the vast majority of employees are entitled to a smoke-free work environment. The law requires employers to provide a smoke-free environment in enclosed workplaces.

Company policies on smoking in the workplace for Massachusetts employers should include the following:

  • Informing employees about the Massachusetts Smoke-free Workplace law.
  • The internal procedure as to how to register complaints about workplace smoking policies regarding smoking outside entrances. (Note: Employers should check with their landlords prior to finalizing this policy as some landlords may prohibit smoking on the premises.)
  • Information regarding "smoking breaks."

Of particular confusion to many employees is the question of whether or not the employer is obligated to provide "smoking breaks." Employers should bear in mind that they are not obligated to provide additional "smoking breaks." If you decide to do so, keep in mind that allowing additional breaks for smokers may generate issues with non-smokers.

Roberta Chinsky Matuson

Administering an ethics quiz

How typical is it to administer an ethics quiz when interviewing candidates? We would like to start doing this and were wondering if it is common practice and also if there are any resources you can refer me to so we can develop a fair quiz. Thanks.

This practice is not common among companies. Here is the problem I see with administering an ethics quiz. Those with high ethics will respond honestly to the questions, which in some cases may disqualify them from further considerations. Others will choose to provide you with the answers you want to hear, even if those responses are not what they would do when faced with a particular ethical dilemma.

The best way to check ethics is by conducting a thorough reference check. If certain facts have been exaggerated, this should be a clear sign that the candidate may not have the level of ethics you are seeking in your organization.

Roberta Chinsky Matuson

Dealing with romantic office relationships

I have a really tough situation on my hands. An office assistant at our firm slept with another employee and now it leaked to all the office employees. Should I do anything and if so, what can I do?

First and foremost it is important to know whether these two employees are peers or if one of them supervises the other. If it is the latter, then the HR professional must intervene with both parties since these types of situations can lead to suspicions of preferential treatment, problems with performance, and potential allegations of sexual harassment should the relationship ever turn sour. On the other hand, if the two employees are peers and work in different departments — and if there is no current company policy about these types of relationships — then I suggest it is no one's business. With this said I do suggest that HR communicate quietly and privately with any employee engaged in gossip. Gossip and rumor-making at work sites should be discouraged. In addition, it probably makes good sense to let the two parties involved in this situation know that "rumors are spreading" and that they should be more discrete at work when it comes to personal matters.

Harry Sobel

Notifying potential employees of tests

I want to give potential job candidates a computer skills test. Must I notify them ahead of time or can I just ask them to submit to a test after an interview without prior notice?

Although I am not an employment attorney, I do not believe that there is any existing law requiring advance notice for this type of skills-based test. Many organizations utilize pre-employment tests of some type to gain further data on behavioral skills, competencies, and "fit" or match to the culture. If used correctly and ethically, these psychometric instruments will contribute significant added-value to the hiring process. As a matter of best practice and respect for individual choice, we believe that candidates should be notified in advance that they may be asked to take some assessments as part of the interview. The use of tests should be matched to the job description requirements. Candidates always have a choice whether or not to take a particular assessment or test. By hearing the information ahead of time, some people may elect to remove themselves from consideration.

Harry Sobel

Do you have a question for our panel of NEHRA HR experts? Submit it here.

Check out the latest Ask the HR Expert articles

Ask an HR Expert
Submit HR questions

Expert Bios

Benefits and Compensation

Jeff Arnold
Watson Wyatt

Judi Casey
Sloan Work and Family Research Network

Bill Coleman


Katharine Esty
Ibis Consulting

Colette Phillips
Colette Phillips Communications

Deloris Tuggle
May Institute

Employment Law and Immigration Law

Mike Brown
Seyfarth Shaw

Susan Cohen
Mintz Levin

Carolyn Fuchs
Looney & Grossman

David Henderson
Nutter, McClennen & Fish


Roberta Chinsky Matuson
Human Resource Solutions

Harry Sobel
Sobel & Raciti

Recruiting and Retention

Tracy Burns-Martin
UMass Medical School

Mary Ann Masarech

Louis Rubino
Rubino Consulting

Workforce Development

Michael Andrew
Strategic Impact Learning

Bonnie Niven
Right Management Consultants


Sales and Customer Support 1-888-566-4JOB or e-mail: info@bostonworks.com
Copyright 2005 BostonWorks | Usage rules