Employees, whether in the credit department or elsewhere, are concerned about
opening mail, flying for business and working in high-profile locations. The
Sept. 11 events have weakened productivity and employee well being. Employees
handle the stress of these events differently. Does the employer now have a
responsibility to ensure an employee's safety in this new environment? Many
businesses are consulting with security firms to advise on steps to protect
the company. What may have been considered as office jokes may now be considered
as threats. For example, an employee was recently fired for having spread white
powder on another employee's desk.
What is the employer's duty to protect employees in the face of new threats
of terrorism? How far does that duty extend? Does an employer have responsibility
for the employee's safe commute where there is a terrorist threat? Is tele-commuting
an option the employer must consider with such a threat? What if an employee
refuses to fly out of concerns over safety where travel is required. What remedy
does an employer have? What of the employee that refuses to continue work in
a high rise out of safety concerns? The law is uncertain which is requiring
companies to go to great lengths to create a safe workplace.
Companies are establishing safety plans for employees at work locations. Employers
are examining evacuation plans, protections against bioterrorism and maintaining
emergency food and water supplies. Employers are also considering threats to
the mailroom. Many companies are following guidelines provided by the U.S.
Postal Service in dealing with suspicious packages. Employees are also updating
personal information of employees, including contact information so they may
be reached in an emergency. The credit department may consider maintaining
a contact list of employees within the department.
Many employees have undergone a significant shift in views of work and personal
life with their priorities shifting, and the credit department is not immune
to this. Does the employer have a duty to help employees with emotional issues
surrounding the new environment? Employers are now asked to draw the line with
employer/employee relationship and personal and family concerns. The vendor
may look to information sources to assist with employee stress. Check the National
Center for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder's website: www.ncptsd.org.
2. Customer Relations
Given the environment, a credit professional must be mindful of collection
efforts with delinquent accounts. Customers may still be traumatized from the
Douglas G Fox, GSCFM, CCE is a member of Mid-Atlantic NACM
and is active in the Greater Delaware Valley Region and Philadelphia area.
Scott E. Blakeley is a principal of Blakeley & Blakeley LLP
where he practices creditors' rights and bankruptcy law. He can be reached