Code of Ethics Examples + Template - Free Download 
A code of conduct, code of ethics, or employee code is a set of rules, procedures, and guidelines that are provided to employees in order to help them embrace best practices in the workplace on behalf of the company or organization they are employed by. The code of conduct or code of ethics is normally provided to each employee as part of their new employee training and can be referenced in the employee handbook that is provided to each new team member.
Code of conduct and code of ethics may be required for some companies due to:
- Legal compliance: Legislation like the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, which requires individuals serving on boards and general leadership of publicly traded companies to outline and implement their codes (or clearly explain why they have not).
- Marketing reasons: The code of ethics and code of conduct can serve as a public statement for what the company values and moral compass is. Resulting in a high standard of practice.
- Risk management: Companies and organizations with code of ethics, and who follow other defined steps in the U.S. Sentencing Commission’s Federal Sentencing Guidelines, can reduce the financial risks associated with government and SEC fines for ethical misconduct. These codes act as a “good faith effort” to prevent illegal acts from occurring within the organization.
A great code of conduct for an employee is simple to understand and written for simplicity. A great code of conduct should contain some of the following:
- A general statement regarding what “a great work environment” looks like for the organization, and how it can be conducted.
- A comprehensive amount of information regarding poor conduct. This would include information about how the organization may handle harassment, harassing behavior, sexual harassment, ethical behavior, inappropriate behavior, compliance violations, integrity issues, violation of disclosing or recording confidential information, disagreement on differing viewpoints, and much more.
- An acknowledgment of what disciplinary action looks like for the participants or person involved in violating the professional conduct referred to in the code of ethics. This may include written warnings and insubordination notices.
- A definition of ethical principles, which define core values, fundamental principles, and definitions of what the organization stands for. These are pillars of which an employee may reference how great work can be accomplished and measured within the workplace.
Each company should take time to consider what behavior constitutes insubordination and violation of the code of conduct. Leadership, board members, and founders should both reference state and federal laws for acceptable behavior in the workplace (normally through a compliance officer, workplace attorney practicing applicable law or corporate guidance) as well as their own definitions of what constitutes poor conduct. For example, schools, private institutions, companies, and universities may have a code of conduct that defines some of the following:
That a person or family cannot be treated unfairly in the event that gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation, sexual identity, immigration status, family status, and marital status becomes grounds for the poor conduct.
In this definition, the organization is including any verbal abuse or poor conduct that may have occurred due to the family or person coming from or being part of a lack of or not part of the perceived traditional gender identity, gender expression, family status, or marital status is in violation of the code of conduct.
By providing a code of conduct to each employee, high standards of work can be expected by the employee. And it is up to each employee to hold themselves accountable for violating or creating unacceptable behavior. The ethical principles defined in your code of conduct should give a moral compass to each employee so they can hold themselves accountable to each principle. These highest ethical standards keep employees part of the community of workers in a healthy, well-mannered, professional way.
When an employee decides to violate the code of conduct, they are doing so with intention as they have been provided the code of conduct from the beginning of their tenure. This creates an easier pathway for the alleged violation, suspected violation or clear conduct violation to be addressed by the employer or by a conduct committee team.
The Maintainers Code of Conduct Example
The Maintainers, which is a global research network around the concepts of maintenance, infrastructure, repair, and other forms of labor has a very well written code of conduct. Their conduct example is included below:
The Maintainers wants to provide a meeting experience for all attendees that is free from all forms of harassment, and inclusive of all people. Small actions you can take will help us meet this goal. For instance, we suggest: listening as much as you speak and remembering that colleagues may have the expertise you are unaware of; encouraging and yielding the floor to those whose viewpoints may be under-represented in a group; using welcoming language, for instance by honoring pronoun preferences and favoring gender-neutral collective nouns (“people,” not “guys”); accepting critique graciously and offering it constructively; giving credit where it is due; seeking concrete ways to make physical spaces and online resources more universally accessible; and staying alert to the welfare of those around you.
Likewise, it is important to understand the range of behaviors that may constitute harassment. Harassment can include unwelcome or offensive verbal comments or nonverbal expressions related to: age; appearance or body size; employment or military status; ethnicity; gender identity or expression; individual lifestyles; marital status; national origin; physical or cognitive ability; political affiliation; sexual orientation; race; or religion. Harassment can also include use of sexual and/or discriminatory images in public spaces (including online); deliberate intimidation; stalking; following; harassing photography or recording; sustained disruption of talks or other events; bullying behavior; inappropriate physical contact; and unwelcome sexual attention.
Employee Code of Ethics (Code of Conduct) Template
Questions from leadership and employers regarding their code of conduct.
What is the Contributor Covenant?
The contributor covenant project is for open-source software projects. But is a great example of how a code of conduct can be used to provide guidance and standard of quality or standard of behavior for any community members, even when there is no organization or institution part of the relationship.
Is a code of ethics and code of conduct the same?
Yes. There is a significant overlap in the definitions of each of these statements. They are usually combined and provided in an employee handbook.
Should I include any of our principals and ethics for social media in the workplace?
Yes. If you feel the use of social media or having another type of governance about social media will produce a more ethical environment, you certainly should include it. This may include the disclosure of private information or intellectual property on social media. Or other core team behaviors that cannot be disclosed via social media.
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