02.5.39 - Respectful and Professional Work Environment Policy: Standards for Employee Conduct

Human Resources: Employee Relations

Last Updated: 05/26/2021

Original policy date: 03/01/1995

Applies to: Faculty, Staff, Residents & Clinical Postdoctoral Fellows


Policy Status, Date of Last Review or Modification

Current, as of May 26, 2021

Next Scheduled Review Date

May 1, 2023


I. Rationale
A.    The Baylor College of Medicine (BCM or College) is committed to the values of integrity, respect, teamwork, innovation, and excellence, and requires all BCM Employees to practice these values consistently in performance of both official and unofficial duties. Creating and sustaining a culture that reflects BCM values is the responsibility of every individual at the College.
B.    BCM Employees represent a variety of cultures, geographic regions, and countries, and bring with them a diversity of customs and preferences regarding interpersonal communication, style of dress, hygiene, grooming, and other professional standards.
D.    The purposes of this policy are to clearly describe standards for respectful and professional workplace conduct, and provide notice to new and existing BCM Employees that compliance with these standards is necessary to adapt to the College environment and perform according to expectations.
II. Stakeholders Affected by this Policy
Compliance with this policy is mandatory for all BCM Employees while working on the BCM campus and in facilities owned or operated by BCM, as well as during any on or off-campus activity or event where the Employee acts as a designated representative of the College. This policy also applies to BCM Community Members during any on or off-campus activity or event where the Community Member acts as a designated representative of BCM (e.g., officers and board members). This policy does not apply to Learners, who should consult the Respectful and Professional Learning Environment Policy (23.2.01) for information on mandatory conduct and dress standards specific to the clinical, laboratory or classroom settings.
III. Definitions
(a)   BCM Community Members refers to all current BCM patients, officers and board members, volunteers, and guests.
(b)   BCM Employeesrefers to all faculty, staff (including course directors, clerkship directors, and attending physicians), Resident and Fellow Physicians, research postdoctoral scholars, and contractors, who receive employment compensation from BCM.
(c)   Business Casual attire may include but is not limited to: slacks, khakis, ankle pants, dress shirt or blouse; open-collar or polo shirt; tailored blazer or seasonal sport coat; tie or bowtie; a dress or skirt at knee-length or below; knit shirt or sweater; loafers or dress shoes that cover all or most of the foot (e.g., conservative walking shoes, dress shoes, oxfords, boots, flats, dress heels (such as mid-level heels or pumps), mules, clogs); other clothing sponsored by BCM or with a BCM logo; appropriate accessories based on the Employee’s specific work site or environment. Spaghetti strap and halter tops/dresses must be worn under another item of clothing, such as a jacket or sweater.
·         Business Casual attire does not include: torn, dirty, or frayed clothing; tight, low-cut, or sheer clothing that exposes skin between the top and bottom layer of clothing; any clothing that has logos (other than BCM), words, terms, or pictures that may be offensive to a reasonable person (e.g., slurs, profanity, obscene images); sweatpants or exercise pants; midriff-baring tops, tank tops, tube tops, halter tops, strapless tops or dresses; short shorts or “hot pants”; mini-skirts or mini-dresses; deep slit skirts or dresses; slip dresses; form-fitting body suits; clothing that reveals underwear or undergarments; or flip-flops.   
(d)   Casual attire may include but is not limited to: jeans, khakis,  blouses, polo shirts, dresses or skirts, sweaters, sweatshirts, sweatpants; exercise pants; shorts; t-shirts, so long as the words, terms or pictures would not be offensive to a reasonable person; sneakers; appropriate accessories based on the Employee’s specific work site or environment.
·         Casual attire does not include flip-flops or dirty clothing.
(e)   ERD refers to the Employee Relations Division within the Office of Human Resources.
(f)    Learners refers to all students currently enrolled in any BCM school and degree-granting program, as well as other trainees who are invited to complete time-limited learning experiences that are administered by designated BCM departments and that do not require enrollment.
(g)   Lapse in Professionalism by an Employee or Community Member refers to performance that is either below the expectations for respectful and professional behavior established by this and related College policies (see Section IX.A,below) or inconsistent with BCM’s values.          
(h)   Non-Exempt refers toEmployees working in positions that do not meet Administrative, Executive, or Professional criteria described in Section III of the Employee Wages, Overtime, and Extra Work Policy (02.4.05). Employees in Non-Exempt positions are subject to the minimum wage and overtime provisions of the FLSA.
(i)    Standard Business attire typically consists of suits, jackets, tailored pants, dresses and skirts, dress blouses or tailored shirts; button-down or dress shirts; turtlenecks and sweaters; dress shoes that cover all or most of the foot (e.g., conservative walking shoes, dress shoes, oxfords, boots, flats, dress heels, mules, clogs); and appropriate accessories based on the Employee’s specific working location/environment.  
IV. Policy
A.    Culture of Respect and Professionalism. All BCM Employees are required to conduct themselves in a courteous and professional manner when dealing with patients, customers, vendors, guests, colleagues, subordinates, and Learners. Consistent with the BCM Code of Conduct (31.1.01) and Policy Regarding Harassment, Discrimination and Retaliation (02.2.25), BCM prohibits use of language, images, and display of personal items that are regarded as rude, disrespectful, or demeaning, as well as behavior that is threatening or disruptive to the workplace environment.
1.     Policy Noncompliance. BCM Employees must also adhere to all applicable conduct standards described in other BCM policies (see Section IX), and may be disciplined for specific policy violations in accordance with relevant procedures described therein.
2.     Social Media and Networking Behavior. Consistent with the College’s Social Media Policy (11.2.15), Employees are required to maintain the institutional culture of respect and professionalism during all social media activity. Every Employee must refrain from posting any words or images that could be harmful to the College, other Employees, students, postdoctoral trainees, or patients, and clearly distinguish any personal views from views that could be attributed to the College. Consult the Social Media Policy (11.2.15) for more information. Employees who fail to meet these requirements may be subject to disciplinary action.
3.     Conflicts of Interest in the Education Setting. As provided in the Educator Conflicts of Interest Policy (23.2.04), educators must disclose perceived conflicts of interest, and recuse themselves from assessment and promotion decisions concerning the Learner (when practicable) to avoid disciplinary action.
4.     Otherwise Unreasonable Behavior. Although an Employee’s conduct may not violate the Policy Regarding Harassment, Discrimination and Retaliation (02.2.25) or other BCM policies, if a reasonable person would conclude that the Employee’s workplace conduct is inconsistent with BCM values (see Section I.C) or any conduct standards established in this policy, then that Employee may be subject to disciplinary action for the Lapse in Professionalism if warranted under the totality of the circumstances.
B.    Accommodations in the Workplace. As part of its commitment to a respectful workplace, BCM is committed to providing reasonable accommodations to enable employees to be as productive as possible in the workplace.  
1.     Disability Accommodations. BCM will endeavor to provide reasonable accommodations to individuals with a known physical or mental disability to enable that individual to apply for, or perform, the essential functions of the position in question. As provided in the Accommodations for Employees and Employment Applicants with Disabilities Policy (02.2.30), any applicant or employee who requires an accommodation in order to perform the essential functions of the job should notify Employee Relations and request such an accommodation. BCM will then work with the individual, and in many cases, their healthcare provider, to identify possible accommodations, if any, that will help to eliminate the limitation or barrier. If the accommodation is reasonable, will not impose an undue hardship, and will not pose a direct threat to the health and/or safety of the individual or others, BCM will make the accommodation. Individuals seeking workplace accommodations are required to fully cooperate with BCM in seeking and evaluating alternatives and accommodations, and BCM may require appropriate supporting medical documentation for these types of requests.  
2.     Religious Accommodations. BCM will attempt to make reasonable accommodations for an employee’s sincerely held religious beliefs, including time off for religious holidays and accommodations related to dress and grooming practices, unless doing so would cause an undue hardship to BCM operations. If a religious accommodation is desired, please contact Employee Relations to discuss options and any necessary supporting documentation as soon as the Employee becomes aware of the need for accommodation, and in any event, prior to taking actions that may be inconsistent with an applicable BCM policy for which an exception is sought (e.g., before violating the Dress Code or Hygiene and Grooming policies set forth below). For information about religious accommodations, please contact Employee Relations (employeerelations@bcm.edu).  
3.     Accommodations for Nursing Mothers. As provided in the Accommodations for Breastfeeding Mothers Policy (02.2.50), BCM supports breastfeeding mothers as they transition back to work after having a child, and as they continue to meet the nutritional needs of their growing child. The institution is committed to supporting breastfeeding mothers by providing them with reasonable time and dedicated space to express breast milk during the workday, which includes the availability of Mother’s Aid Stations throughout main campus. For information about this resource, please contact Employee Relations (employeerelations@bcm.edu).  
4.     Other Accommodations (e.g., short-term medical Illness or injury). Accommodations are not limited to those described above, although the availability of a specific accommodation may depend on applicable laws and/or the Employee’s demonstration of eligibility (e.g., supporting medical documentation for injury). For any questions or requests related to a need for accommodation in the workplace that is not referenced in this policy, please contact Employee Relations at employeerelations@bcm.edu for additional guidance.
C.    Dress Code.
1.     General Principles Applicable to Employees in all Work Settings and Locations.
a.   Employee Badges. Consistent with the BCM Identification Badges Policy (13.5.00), all BCM Employees must wear BCM and/or hospital identification badges in a visible location at all times during the workday. Any other badges or items that can be affixed to clothing (e.g., buttons, stickers) are generally prohibited unless supplied by BCM, an affiliate of BCM, or approved by the Employee’s supervisor in accordance with a special event or initiative.
b.   Clothing. Employees must dress in a manner that is appropriate for their position in the College, and any items of clothing that contain words or images that would be offensive to a reasonable person (e.g., swastikas, slurs, crude jokes) are strictly prohibited. Individual College departments (e.g., Surgery) and offices (e.g., Office of Research) have discretion to impose dress code standards and requirements that are job-related and consistent with business necessity. Exceptions may be made for institutionally-sanctioned special events or circumstances (e.g., Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo events), and Employees will be notified of exceptions in advance through the Office of Communications and Community Outreach.
c.   Headgear. Headgear (e.g., caps, hats, scarves, turbans, veils) that does not have a religious or medical purpose is prohibited unless an exception is granted, and requests for accommodation will be decided on a case-by-case basis after consideration of the employee’s job(s) function and work environment (see Section VI). BCM Employees do not need to request an accommodation to wear headgear for religious purposes (e.g., yarmulke, hijab, turban) or for medical necessity (e.g., cancer, other condition), but if the wearing of headgear poses a risk to patient safety and/or College operations (based on evaluation of an employee’s job function and work environment) then the College reserves the right to place restrictions on headgear.
d.   Tattoos. Tattoos featuring any words, terms, or pictures that may be offensive to a reasonable person (e.g., slurs, profanity, obscene images) must be covered throughout the workday. All requests for tattoo exceptions will be considered on a case-by-case basis and decided based on the Employee’s job function(s) and work environment. Exceptions will be granted for religious accommodation purposes (e.g., religions practiced by Native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islanders).
2.     Basic Sciences Research Activities. Unless otherwise specified by individual offices or departments, BCM Employees primarily engaged in basic sciences research and/or related activities may dress in Casual attire that conforms to all lab safety standards, best practices, and protocols specific to their departments/offices.
3.     Business Offices. As a general rule, BCM Employees who work in any College business office or whose position requires regular or periodic interaction with the public will dress in Standard Business attire or a uniform, as determined by the department (see also Section IV.B.4 below).
a.   Clinical Business Operations. All clerical and administrative staff, front desk staff, guest services representatives, and other clinic staff (i.e., registered nurses (RN), licensed vocational nurses (LVN), medical assistants (MA), certified nursing assistants (CNA), and Technicians) working in clinics and clinical business offices owned or operated by the College will dress in a uniform comprised of various Business Casual attire, as specified in the Employee Uniform Policy (#pending). All clinical research staff and clinic/nurse managers must dress in Standard Business attire, and a clean white coat may be required as specified in the Employee Uniform Policy. If an exception is made for institutionally-sanctioned special events or circumstances (e.g., Go Texan Day), Employees in this category will be notified through a communication from the BCM Faculty Group Practice Ambulatory Operations leadership (e.g., AVP of Ambulatory Operations).
b.   Patient Care. All physicians, house staff physicians (i.e., residents and fellows), and other clinicians (e.g., A.P.R.N.; P.A.; R.N.; L.V.N.; medical assistant; other non-physician provider) working at clinics or practice sites owned or operated by the College must adhere to the following dress code standards:
1)    Clothing.
1.1 Hospital scrubs will be worn in accordance with the accepted practices of the assigned work area and must be cleaned and laundered as appropriate. Scrubs will generally be worn only in assigned work areas, such as the Operating Room (OR). Outside of ORs and other assigned work areas (e.g., simulation labs) clinicians will dress in Business Casual or Standard Business attire under a clean white lab coat.
2.1 If medical necessity (e.g., transit between clinic facilities, emergency consultations) requires green or other hospital scrubs to be worn outside of the assigned work area, a clean white lab coat will be worn over the scrubs. Medical necessity does not include trips outside of clinic areas for purposes unrelated to the Employee’s job (e.g., dining, personal shopping). 
3.1 During colder weather, sweatshirts, jackets, and sweaters must be worn under, not over, white coats.
4.1 Clean denim fabrics are only acceptable in clinical areas during an Employee’s off hours and after the conclusion of the business day (e.g., weekends, late evenings).
2)    Footwear. Footwear is limited to close-toed shoes only, i.e., conservative walking shoes, dress shoes, oxfords, boots, flats, dress heels, mules, clean sneakers, or clogs. 
3)    Prohibitions. During the business day (e.g., 7:00am – 6:00pm), the following clothing and footwear is deemed unacceptable in the clinical environment while the physician or clinician is on duty, including but not limited to: shorts, denim fabrics of any kind (e.g., jeans, shirts), tee-shirts, flip-flops, and leggings.
D.    Hygiene and Grooming. All BCM Employees are required to practice good personal hygiene and to avoid heavy body odors, heavy application of fragrances (i.e., perfumes, colognes, scented lotions, creams, or moisturizers), and the use of devices designed to release fragrances/scents into the ambient air. Heavy odor or fragrance is defined as an odor that can be detected within 1-2 feet of the individual or odor-emitting device. This restriction is based on the fact that many Employees have reportedly experienced allergies and various degrees of chemical sensitivity to odors while in confined workspaces.
1.     Fingernails. Fingernails must be kept short and clean. Although false nails and nail extensions are permitted in College business offices (provided that they are a reasonable length), in accordance with infection control protocols false nails and nail extensions are prohibited in all clinical settings.  
2.     Hair and Facial Hair. All hair and facial hair must be neat and well-groomed.
3.     Jewelry and Piercings. All accessories must be appropriate for wear in the Employee’s specific working location/environment. Except pierced ears and noses, visible piercings must be removed during the workday unless the Employee requests and is granted a religious accommodation to wear such piercing while on duty (see Section VI.B). Other requests for piercing exceptions will be considered on a case-by-case basis and decided based on the Employee’s job function(s) and work environment.
4.     Makeup. Makeup must be tasteful and appropriate for the Employee’s work location/setting.
E.    Ethical and Appropriate Use of BCM Resources.
1.     Employee use of any BCM property or resources (e.g., internet, computers or other hardware, telephones, software) will adhere to the Acceptable Use Policy (12.2.01), and will not violate any state or federal laws or BCM policies.
2.     Employees will not conduct personal or third-party business while being paid to perform work on behalf of the College.
3.     Employees will not misrepresent their assigned jobs, positions, scope of authority, capabilities, or employment relationship with the College in any forum, including but not limited to scholarly or other media publications, social media, software applications, and the internet.
4.     All tangible and electronic property or resources belonging wholly to the College, including but not limited to computers, tablets, telephones/cellphones, are intended for BCM business only. Employees are responsible for taking proper care of all BCM property and/or resources assigned to the Employee for use during employment.   
5.     Incoming personal calls should be kept to a minimum during the workday. Outgoing personal calls will be made during breaks or lunch time, and should be made using the Employee’s personal cellphone.
a.   Employees working in clinical settings (such as Clinical Business Operations and Patient Care) are further required to limit cellphone usage to break rooms, lunch rooms, offices, and non-clinical areas. If an Employee needs to step away the workstation/work area to make an urgent personal phone call, the appropriate supervisor must be notified in order to ensure coverage is obtained. Additionally, ringtones will be set to “silent” or “vibrate” during interactions with the public and during the provision of patient care. 
6.     Upon resignation or termination, Employees must return all BCM property in proper working order. Employees may be held financially responsible for any BCM property that is lost, unreturned, or returned in a damaged condition. 
F.    Evaluation and Discipline.
1.     The Employee’s administrative supervisor (e.g., clinic manager, department chair, Program Director) has reasonable discretion to determine whether an Employee’s conduct is appropriate and in compliance with this policy.
2.     Violations of this policy will result in discipline up to and including reassignment of duties, relocation of workstation, adverse action (e.g., suspension, probation), and termination of employment.
3.     In accordance with the Progressive Discipline Policy (02.5.18), Employees who receive a verbal warning for failure to meet the appropriate dress code standard described in Section IV.B may be subject to corrective action. Depending on the circumstances immediate corrective action may be necessary to prevent further disciplinary or adverse action (e.g., termination), including but not limited to being required to leave the work area (e.g., sent off-site to change clothing), and Non-Exempt Employees will not be paid for time away from work unless supplemented by vacation or personal time.
4.     Supervisors who fail to implement discipline necessitated by violations of this policy may be subject to disciplinary action by the appropriate manager (e.g., unit head, chair) upon recommendation of the Employee Relations Department in the Office of Human Resources.
V. Responsibilities
A.    Administrative supervisors (e.g., direct supervisor) are responsible for evaluating and enforcing compliance with this policy. If a supervisor determines that a BCM Employee has violated this policy, the supervisor must adhere to the Progressive Discipline Policy (02.5.18) while implementing appropriate disciplinary action. 
B.    The ERD is responsible for monitoring administrative supervisor compliance with this and other employment policies (e.g., 02.5.18), and for alerting and advising appropriate managers (e.g., unit head, chair) regarding supervisor noncompliance. Supervisors with questions regarding implementation of this policy should contact the ERD via email (employeerelations@bcm.edu) or phone: (713) 798-4346.
C.    BCM Employees responsible for the supervision of Learners during clinical rotations or clerkships must enforce the applicable dress code described in the BCM Respectful and Professional Learning Environment Policy (23.2.01). Rotation and clerkship supervisors (e.g., faculty and staff) will provide verbal correction to the student on the first violation, and alert the applicable Dean or Designee (e.g., Program Director) of any subsequent or additional violations via email. The Dean/Designee has discretion whether to impose adverse action.
The following procedures apply to all Employees EXCEPT Resident and Fellow Physicians.  Resident and Fellow Physicians are subject to alternative procedures for remediation of certain policy violations (refer to 27.4.01) and separate policies regarding disciplinary action (refer to 27.6.1) and vacation and leave (refer to 27.3.5).
A.    Disciplinary Action.
1.     Consistent with the Progressive Discipline Policy (02.5.18) and other relevant College policies about employee conduct (see Section IX), unless an exception applies supervisors will provide notice to any Employee who violates this policy, provide an opportunity to correct the behavior, and then discipline the Employee accordingly if the identified conduct is not corrected. However, in the event of serious misconduct supervisors may proceed to an appropriate warning level (e.g., second, final) and issue disciplinary action that is reasonable under the circumstances. Consult BCM’s Progressive Discipline Policy (02.5.18) for more information.
2.     Supervisors must also account for violations of this policy when determining merit increases. Consult the Discharge-Misconduct Policy (02.5.41) for more information.
1.     Confidentiality. BCM strives to maintain the confidentiality of medical information shared by Employees, and will only share medical information with administrators who have a role in evaluating or effectuating requests for medical accommodation, which may include Employee’s supervisor and personnel in the ERD.
2.     Time-Off From Work and Leave of Absence Requests. Employees should consult the appropriate time off policy to determine eligibility requirements and limits applicable to a specific type of paid time-off or leave of absence. Some types of paid-time off are non-vested, meaning they expire automatically at the end of the academic/fiscal year, on the employee’s work anniversary, and/or upon termination or resignation. 
a.   Employee Requests: Accessing Time-Off.
1)    Bereavement – for absences related to the death of an immediate family member, refer to the Bereavement Policy (02.8.58). Bereavement time-off is non-vested and expires annually. 
2)    Community Service – for an absence related to voluntary performance of community service, consult the Voluntary Community Service Policy (02.8.15). This time-off category is non-vested and expires annually. 
3)    Jury Duty and Other Summons – for absences due to jury selection or service, or subpoenas related to the Employee’s BCM job, job functions, or other matters consult the Jury Duty and Other Summons to Court Policy (02.8.56). This time-off category is non-vested and expires annually. 
4)    Military Service – Employees called to active duty must request time-off from their immediate supervisor and must report the request to Office of Human Resources’ Leave Administration Division (leaveofabsence@bcm.edu). Final approval shall be made by the Leave Administration Division. The Employee must submit a copy of his or her military orders or a written statement from the appropriate military authority as evidence of a call to training or duty to leaveofabsence@bcm.edu. Employees with U.S. military reserve obligations receive up to 30 calendar days of paid military leave per year, and should promptly request time off to address these obligations. Employee-reservists whose military obligations extend beyond 30 days will be unpaid for the remainder of leave. Consult the Military Time-Off and Leave Policy (02.8.35) for more information.
5)    Personal Days – This type of non-vested time-off is only available to eligible staff members, and automatically expires on the employee’s work anniversary. Consult the Personal Days Policy (02.8.50) for more information on allotment of days.   
6)    Sick Pay – Sick pay will be unavailable unless the Employee has paid sick days available to cover the absence AND the Employee’s supervisor approves the scheduled or unscheduled absence(s) in accordance with the Employee Absenteeism and Tardiness Policy (02.5.32). Refer to the Sick Pay Policy (02.8.52) for applicable annual limits.  
7)    Vacation – consult the appropriate vacation policy based on the Employee’s classification: see Vacation Policy for Faculty at the Rank of Assistant Professor or Above (02.8.08) and the Staff & Instructor Vacation Policy (02.8.10).
b.   Leave of Absence Eligibility, as Determined by the Human Resources. Eligibility for a particular leave of absence is based on the benefits-eligible Employee’s classification and circumstances. The ERD determines when administrative leave is appropriate. The Leave Administration Division in the Office of Human Resources determines when family medical leave, medical leave, and short and long term disability benefits are appropriate and applicable. Consistent with applicable laws and BCM leave of absence policies (e.g., 02.8.20, 02.8.25, 02.8.29), Employee requests for extended or continuous leave (regardless of leave type) automatically trigger the use and depletion of any remaining paid vacation or sick pay days when the leave period commences.
1)    Administrative Leave – This non-punitive form of leave may be appropriate and necessary while BCM completes investigation and/or adjudication of alleged serious misconduct or job nonperformance impacting the work environment, to determine whether misconduct has actually occurred and if disciplinary action is appropriate.
2)    Family Medical Leave – Requests related to an Employee’s possible eligibility under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), including required supporting documentation and appropriate methods for submission, will be evaluated and processed as provided in BCM’s Family Medical Leave Act Policy (02.8.25). FMLA leave is unpaid.
3)    Medical Leave - Medical leave may be appropriate based on an Employee’s prolonged absence from work due to a serious medical condition that either persists after approved FMLA leave expires or the Employee is not eligible for FMLA. Medical leave eligibility will be determined and administered in accordance with BCM’s Medical Leave (Non-FMLA) Policy (02.8.20).
4)    Short-Term and Long-Term Disability – These core benefits may be available to some Employees who are unable to return to work due to medical illness or injury that requires the Employee to be absent from work for a requisite number of consecutive days. Consult the explanation of Benefits homepage on the BCM intranet for eligibility requirements and limitations specific to each Employee classification (faculty, staff, research postdoctoral scholars, and resident and fellow physicians). 
5)    Sabbatical Leave – This type of leave may be requested by tenured faculty members only. Requests must be made at least one year in advance of the leave date and satisfy all requirements for approval established in the Sabbatical Leave Policy (02.8.30).  
VII. Stakeholder Compliance
Any BCM Employee challenging a violation of this policy or disciplinary action received as a result of such violation must file a grievance. Consult the appropriate grievance procedure listed in Section IX for more information.
VIII. Tools
A.    Related Conduct Policies (non-exhaustive list).
·         32.1.01 – Code of Conduct
B.    Procedures for Disciplinary Action; Challenging Policy Violations and/or Disciplinary Actions.
X. Applicable Laws, Regulations & Standards