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  1. Can employees be disciplined for violating “standards of conduct” or the “code of ethics” even if they were never informed of the standards or code?
  2. When speaking of “conflict of interest” are we speaking only about the requirements for some employees to file semi-annual statements of economic interests (Ethics Commission forms)?
  3. If one of my employees uses the shop telephone to call home, has that employee violated the “no use of City time, materials or facilities for private or personal gain?”
  4. What is meant by use of confidential information for personal gain?
  5. I know of employees who regularly go to lunch with “vendors” doing business with the City. Isn’t that a conflict of interest?
  6. Can employees have jobs or private businesses in addition to their job with the City?
  7. Does an employee with an outside job or business need the City’s approval to participate in that outside job/business?
  8. Can management disapprove an employee participating in “outside employment” (described in the answer to question 7, above)?
  9. I am not sure I understand what constitutes a “conflict of interest” for outside employment. What is “outside employment” that would be a conflict of interest or an appearance of conflict of interest?
  10. What happens if an employee, with approved outside employment, tells me that the nature of his work for the outside business has changed or ended?
  11. I am designated as a “Filer” for the Statement of Economic Interest that is required by State law. Who can I call to get information or answers to questions about the procedure for filing the Statements?
  12. I have completed interviews to fill a position I supervise. The person who is best qualified for the position happens to be my daughter. Can I hire my daughter, or must I hire someone else?
  13. How do you define “relative?”
  14. I know of a situation that appears to be a conflict of interest. Who can I report it to?
  15. Some employees believe that sick leave is a right, and that the supervisor cannot disapprove sick leave. Is this true?
  16. When would I question an employee’s use of paid sick leave?
  17. I have an employee who fits the “pattern” in the previous answer. Do I need to take disciplinary action?
  18. Is unauthorized absence (AW) handled the same way as sick leave?
  19. Can I order an employee to wear appropriate attire to work? If so, what is “appropriate attire?”
  20. What do I do if an employee refuses to wear safety clothes/equipment?
  21. I have one employee who is obviously drunk at work, and another who refuses to take medication to control emotional outbursts. Can I discipline one for drinking, and the other for not taking his medication?
  22. One of my employees insists that it is his constitutional right to make an appearance before the City Council to complain about the type of refuse truck the City purchases, and how GSD repairs those trucks. Must I allow the employee to “exercise his constitutional rights?”
  23. Can I discipline an employee who, on her own time, made a presentation to the Council that embarrassed our Division Manager, and contradicted everything he told the Council?
  24. Can I stop an employee from wearing a political pin at work?
  25. One of my employees was arrested over the weekend for public intoxication and lewd behavior. He is also being charged with resisting arrest. Is this any of “my” business, since it was off-duty behavior?
  26. Are my employees, who drive as part of their jobs, required to tell me if their licenses are suspended or revoked?
  27. If an employee loses his license to drive, and tells me, is he subject to discipline for losing his license?
  28. One of my employees is in jail. Should I approve vacation, sick leave, or even a leave without pay until she is released and can return to duty?
  29. Is it any of my business if I learn that an employee who claims to be on jury duty is in fact not on jury duty and visiting relatives in San Francisco?
  30. Do my employees have to contribute to City sponsored charities?
  31. Is it okay for employees to request other employees to participate or contribute to non-City sponsored charities?
  32. What about solicitation for charities or to sell items such as insurance, food, or other products? Do vendors or representatives of the organizations need prior approval to offer their products, services or charities?

Can employees be disciplined for violating “standards of conduct” or the “code of ethics” even if they were never informed of the standards or code?
Ok, you want to start with a hard one! Obviously this question cannot be answered with a simple yes or no. The general rule is that employees must know the “standards” or requirements before they can violate them. The exception to the rule (knowledge beforehand) is where the behavior of the employee is so bad that any reasonable person knows that it is wrong -–without having to be told so.

The safest way to make sure that employees abide by standards of conduct, the code of ethics, and avoid conflict of interest is to tell them as much as we can when they are new. We also need to encourage them to ask for clarification before they act. Once they know, or should know, and violate the principles of proper conduct, we have to be consistent in taking disciplinary action to make sure it does not happen again.

This set of FAQ’s and the GSD Employee Handbook are probably the best sources of information on proper conduct that you can share with new employees. GSD also has two Personnel Directives that address these issues in detail (Conflict of Interest and Conditions of Employment). If you need to see the Directives, and they are not available in your division, call your liaison personnel analyst.

When speaking of “conflict of interest” are we speaking only about the requirements for some employees to file semi-annual statements of economic interests (Ethics Commission forms)?
No, no, no. The Statement of Economic Interest that some employees file is required under State and City laws. They are intended to disclose potential conflicts of interests between the City and those doing business with the City.

By “conflict of interest” we are mostly referring to employee behavior such as using the City for personal gain, disclosing confidential information, accepting gifts or money for special privileges, hiring relatives, and political activity while representing the City. Each of these areas, and more, will be discussed in questions to follow.

If one of my employees uses the shop telephone to call home, has that employee violated the “no use of City time, materials or facilities for private or personal gain?”
No, not really. It is standard practice to allow employees to use City equipment and time for urgent personal business. Consider this a question of privilege that if abused could cause disruption of the work or prevent others from using the equipment for City business.. The supervisor needs to correct the “abuse” of the privilege – keeping the employee or others from doing their work.

Using the computer to view graphics or conduct searches unrelated to work would be considered as detracting from the employee’s work, or slowing down other employees trying to do their jobs.

Use of City time, materials and facilities becomes a conflict of interest when the employee is personally gaining from the behavior at the expense of the City. For example, , using the City connection to the internet to place an order to purchase or sell stock or purchase a personal item, would be considered a conflict of interest (personal gain).

We can discuss many different situations and different interpretations of “personal gain” or “abuse” of privilege. What you need to do is make sure employees know the “rule” – do not abuse, or use for private gain, any City time, material or facility.

What is meant by use of confidential information for personal gain?
The rule is: City employees shall not disclose confidential information obtained from the job, or available to them by virtue of their position with the City, for personal gain (investments, business arrangements, economic interests) – or for use by others for personal gain.

Nor can employees disclose confidential information that violates the (constitutional) right of privacy of any other person.

Confidential information would include (but not limited to) such things as personnel or disciplinary records, bids, labor negotiation strategies, employee selection criteria and civil or criminal legal material. If a situation arises and you are not sure of the confidentiality of the information, call your liaison personnel analyst.

I know of employees who regularly go to lunch with “vendors” doing business with the City. Isn’t that a conflict of interest?
Only if the employees accept free lunches or other “gratuities” or “favors” in exchange for work normally done by the employees (for which they are paid by the City), or

If there is even just the appearance that the vendors are trying to influence any decisions that would benefit them or their business (regardless of who pays for the lunch).

The basic rule: Employees cannot accept money, gifts, gratuities, honoraria or favors of any kind where there is even just an appearance of impropriety.

Can employees have jobs or private businesses in addition to their job with the City?
Yes, as long as there is no conflict of interest, or the appearance of any conflict of interest.

Does an employee with an outside job or business need the City’s approval to participate in that outside job/business?
Absolutely, yes. Employees planning to engage in “outside employment” (work for another employer, work for themselves, or perform services such as consulting for pay) must complete and give to their supervisors a NOTICE OF INTENTION TO ENGAGE IN OUTSIDE EMPLOYMENT.

The NOTICE is available in Personnel Services (call the Personnel Records Supervisor). It must be completed by the employee, approved by the Division Manager, and forwarded to Personnel Services to be placed in the employee’s personnel file

Can management disapprove an employee participating in “outside employment” (described in the answer to question 7, above)?
The Division Manager may disapprove the outside employment on the grounds that it creates possible conflict of interest – or appearance of conflict of interest. Employees are subject to discipline if found to be engaging in “outside employment” without having filed a NOTICE, even if there is no conflict of interest.

I am not sure I understand what constitutes a “conflict of interest” for outside employment. What is “outside employment” that would be a conflict of interest or an appearance of conflict of interest?
There are several parts to this answer:

  1. There is a connection (or appearance of) between the City employee’s job and the work performed off the job. It would not be proper for a Security Officer to work for a private security firm doing business with the City.
  2. The employee’s job requires review, approval or inspection of the work performed by the outside employer/business.
  3. The employee is in a position to influence City decisions that could affect the outside employer.
  4. Limits the employee’s availability for regular or overtime work.
  5. The outside job requires mental or physical that reduces the employees abilities to perform City work.
  6. The outside business requires the employee to use City time, materials and facilities for the benefit of the outside employer.
  7. The employee uses her official position with the City for the outside employer. For example, an Accountant with the City should not use that position in working for or representing a non-City employer or business.

What happens if an employee, with approved outside employment, tells me that the nature of his work for the outside business has changed or ended?
Employees need to know that it is their responsibility to report outside employment, and to also report any changes to approved outside employment, including termination. Complete the NOTICE form and submit for Division Manager approval.

I am designated as a “Filer” for the Statement of Economic Interest that is required by State law. Who can I call to get information or answers to questions about the procedure for filing the Statements?
The GSD “Filing Officer” is the best person to contact for advice on procedures. The Filing Officer is our Personnel Records Supervisor, in Personnel Services

I have completed interviews to fill a position I supervise. The person who is best qualified for the position happens to be my daughter. Can I hire my daughter, or must I hire someone else?
It is unfair, to you, your daughter and the department, but we cannot appoint your daughter to a position with you as her supervisor.

The rules on employment of relatives are:

  1. You (supervisor) must notify the Personnel Services Division, in writing, whenever a relative of one employee is hired anywhere in the Department of General Services.
  2. You (or any other employee of the Department) cannot participate in any employment decision involving a relative.
  3. No employee can share confidential information (pending disciplinary action, selection material, etc.) with relatives.
  4. No employee can certify, audit, or inspect the work of a relative.
  5. You cannot directly supervise or evaluate the work of a relative. You should try to avoid even indirect (e.g., second level supervisor) supervision over a relative.

The best way to make sure employees do not violate these rules is to report the employment of relatives in the Department. Personnel Services maintains records on the employment of relatives and can assist avoiding “conflicts of interest.”

How do you define “relative?”
A “relative” includes, but is not limited to, a mother, father, step-parent, in-laws, daughter, son, sister, brother, step-child, step-sibling, wife, husband, grandparent and other relatives (aunts, uncles, cousins, nephews, nieces, etc.) living in the employee’s home. To be safe, we consider any person living in the employee’s home as a “relative” for purposes of the rule on employment of relatives.

I know of a situation that appears to be a conflict of interest. Who can I report it to?
First, to your supervisor. If that is not possible, you can call the General Manager on “Call the General Manager” days (9-4, first Tuesday of each month). Third, you can call the City Ethics Commission on the “Fraud/Waste Hotline” (1-800-824-4825)

You need to make sure employees know that they are expected to bring to your attention any situation that may appear to be a conflict of interest, or any fraud, waste or impropriety. Their observations can be made anonymously at any of the levels described in the paragraph above.

Some employees believe that sick leave is a right, and that the supervisor cannot disapprove sick leave. Is this true?
Far from it. Paid sick leave is a benefit for employees who are unable to come to work due to illness (including an illness in the family and preventive medicine). Employees are expected to come to work, and can be disciplined and even terminated if they are consistently unable to do so – even due to legitimate illnesses.

Supervisors can disapprove use of paid sick leave if the employee does not have any accrued sick leave balance, does not have a doctor’s note (when required in advance), or did not report the illness during the first hour of the work day (policy in some divisions).

When would I question an employee’s use of paid sick leave?
At any time that the employee establishes a pattern of sick leave that would amount to being off sick for 96 hours or more – and 6 or more separate incidents of sick leave - in a twelve-month period. Or, any time that an employee establishes a pattern over several months of one or more incidents of sick leave per month.

I have an employee who fits the “pattern” in the previous answer. Do I need to take disciplinary action?
The answer to this, and other questions you are going to ask on paid sick leave are answered in another section (Sick Leave Monitoring).

Is unauthorized absence (AW) handled the same way as sick leave?
No. The department has “zero tolerance” for unauthorized absence. This means that one day or one hour of absence that is not authorized is subject to discipline. The key is to deal with unauthorized absences right away. Do not let them build up without taking any corrective action.

Can I order an employee to wear appropriate attire to work? If so, what is “appropriate attire?”
Yes, you can demand that employees dress appropriately while at work. You can expect employees to wear clean, neat, safe clothes or uniforms.

GSD policy is to allow as much latitude as possible for supervisors to determine what is appropriate and safe for the work environment. This includes consideration for other workers and the public who come in contact with the employee. Supervisors, not employees, can approve adjustments to dress requirements due to environmental circumstances – such as extremely hot weather, no air conditioning, or extreme cold.

What do I do if an employee refuses to wear safety clothes/equipment?
That employee does not work unless the work can be performed safely. If an employee refuses to wear safety gear (too hot, or too uncomfortable, or too restrictive, etc.) the employee should be disciplined for insubordination (and possibly removed from duty if there are no assignments that can be made without wearing the safety gear).

You will need to check with your bosses, and possibly Personnel Services, if you run into this situation. While you are checking with your bosses, DO NOT ALLOW THE EMPLOYEE TO WORK UNSAFELY.

I have one employee who is obviously drunk at work, and another who refuses to take medication to control emotional outbursts. Can I discipline one for drinking, and the other for not taking his medication?
You can discipline both – but not for what you think. We cannot discipline for drinking (unless caught drinking on the job) or for not taking medication. We can discipline for behavior on the job or non-performance – no matter the cause.

We can also discipline for absences as a result of drinking or not taking medication. In either case, we would probably want a medical opinion on the employee’s ability to work safely. The City Medical Director may take employees off duty until they can demonstrate that they are able to work safely. Once returned to work, we would consider discipline for the behavior, performance or absence.

One of my employees insists that it is his constitutional right to make an appearance before the City Council to complain about the type of refuse truck the City purchases, and how GSD repairs those trucks. Must I allow the employee to “exercise his constitutional rights?”
Let’s be real clear up front. You cannot deny an employee his constitutional rights. However, in this situation, the employee does not have the constitutional right to use City time to exercise his right to address the Council.

Nor does this employee have the constitutional right to appear before the Council as a representative of the Department of General Services. The employee has the right to say whatever he wants to say to the Council as long as it is on his time, and clearly on his own behalf. If the discussion is during the employee’s working hours, he will have to request vacation, and cannot wear a GSD uniform, GSD I.D., Division patch or City badge.

Can I discipline an employee who, on her own time, made a presentation to the Council that embarrassed our Division Manager, and contradicted everything he told the Council?
Probably not. But, we want to send a strong message to employees that they should share their concerns or disagreements with supervisors and Division Managers first.

Can I stop an employee from wearing a political pin at work?
You must not allow employees to engage in any political activities at work.

One of my employees was arrested over the weekend for public intoxication and lewd behavior. He is also being charged with resisting arrest. Is this any of “my” business, since it was off-duty behavior?
Most likely it is “our” business. You need to notify your division management who may request an investigation by Personnel Services for possible discipline.

The key to determining if any action is warranted by GSD is whether the off duty behavior in any way relates to the person’s job with the Department. We also need to gather the facts to see if he may be guilty of the charges (interview witnesses, police officers, etc.). If the employee’s job requires working with the public or his job gives him access to sensitive information, and there were witnesses to his off duty behavior, we most likely will take disciplinary action.

In workplace violence, or domestic violence cases, off duty behavior (that is related to on duty responsibilities) is extremely important for deciding disciplinary action.

Are my employees, who drive as part of their jobs, required to tell me if their licenses are suspended or revoked?
Yes. If an employee continues to drive as part of her City job, after losing her license to drive, she is subject to serious discipline for not telling you she cannot drive.

If an employee loses his license to drive, and tells me, is he subject to discipline for losing his license?
No. Losing a driver’s license is not something we would consider for discipline. However, the behavior that led to the loss of the license (even if off-duty) may lead to discipline. Contact your personnel liaison analyst for more assistance if you run into this kind of situation.

If the employee who lost his license (even if temporarily) needs the license to perform his job, we would try to “accommodate” by giving the employee other (than driving) duties for a reasonable time – until he gets his license back. However, if this is a frequent problem, or we do not have other duties, we may need to approve vacation or leave without pay until he can return to full duties.

In the end, though, we may need to remove (discharge) or transfer an employee for absences or inability to work if he cannot maintain a required license.

One of my employees is in jail. Should I approve vacation, sick leave, or even a leave without pay until she is released and can return to duty?
No. If an employee is in jail, they are considered to be absent without authorization (AW) – even though we know she is in jail and she may not be guilty. We would not necessarily move to discipline or discharge an employee we know is in jail and AW. However, the AW time may be used in connection with other “charges” if we move to take discipline (especially if for absenteeism) in connection with behavior unrelated to the “jail-time.”

Don’t feel bad about AW (no pay) for employee who has not yet been found guilty. If the employee can establish that she is not guilty (or the fact that she should not have been arrested in the first place), we can allow the employee to substituting vacation, overtime off (CTO), or approved leave (LW) for the (AW) time in jail.

Is it any of my business if I learn that an employee who claims to be on jury duty is in fact not on jury duty and visiting relatives in San Francisco?
Yes it is ”your” business. The City is continuing to pay the employee’s salary while on jury duty. This is one of the benefits provided City employees – full pay while serving on jury duty.

If you learn that an employee collecting this “benefit” (full salary for jury service) is falsifying the claim to be on jury duty you need to alert your management. We need to investigate the facts, and if it is true (employee falsely claiming jury duty benefits), we will take severe disciplinary action. This behavior is in the same category as theft.

Do my employees have to contribute to City sponsored charities?
No. They do not have to give, and they do not have to participate in events. But, as the supervisor, you need to foster a sense of sharing with others less fortunate than us. Employees who want to take an active role in City charitable campaigns should be congratulated and, if possible, allowed time to participate. But, charitable campaigns should not disrupt others or the work.

Is it okay for employees to request other employees to participate or contribute to non-City sponsored charities?
Employees must first get your approval to solicit for personal charities including Girl Scout Cookies, school fundraisers, soccer team sponsorship, etc. You can approve these activities, but should make sure they are conducted without disrupting work, without any intimidation or pressure to participate, or without compromising personal beliefs.

What about solicitation for charities or to sell items such as insurance, food, or other products? Do vendors or representatives of the organizations need prior approval to offer their products, services or charities?
Yes. Prior approval by you or the site supervisor is required for any use of a facility or “City time” (employees) to make presentations to employees regarding charities and certain employee organization (approved by the General Manager) insurance or benefits programs.

Vendors wishing to sell products to City employees are not allowed to do so on City property or City time.

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