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Keeping Work Weird (and Legal)

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By Christopher Coble, Esq. on April 29, 2015 3:56 PM

From cities to startups, everyone is trying to keep it weird these days. An offbeat corporate culture at your business may sound good in theory, but how do you keep it legal in practice?

Here are a few tips to keep your office weird from getting too legally wild.

Keep the Intake Integral

Who and how you hire is still going to be the most determinative factor in your business' success. Especially if you want a weird office, you'll probably want have that in mind during hiring so you know your employees will be a part of your very cool culture.

While many companies are experimenting with alternative interview styles, you'll want to be careful. Remember you're still trying to get the most qualified employees, and interviews present their own legal risks. Make sure your questions are non-discriminatory and any tests are related to job-related requirements and performance.

Keep HR Handy

As Leigh Buchanan notes in the article linked above, some companies are minimizing the role of HR in both hiring and policy making. She quotes Zappos' HR director Hollie Delaney: "If nothing's causing the need for a policy, we don't have one."

While this may sound like a sweet streamlining tactic, legally, it has its risks. Often, the human resources department will be the best qualified to delineate between weird and just plain wrong. A good HR department will be able to set out a (weird) policy to prevent something from going wrong. After is just too late.

Keep the Oddball Optional

You can't force the weird. First and foremost, it's not how everyone works -- and this has to be authentic to work. While some employees thrive when they can free their inner goofball, others may feel uncomfortable with their idiosyncrasies on display. If you maintain a safe space for those employees that want to come to the crazy, as well as those that don't, the entire office will be happier.

Also, the fewer mandates you have on employees the less pushback, legal and otherwise, you'll encounter. While you might think it's easier to ask employees to wear a few pieces of flair than require them to get vaccinated or speak English, mandatory self-expression might yield the same results.

So feel free to let your employees let their freak flag fly. But you might want to consult with an employment attorney to make sure an office a little on the weird side is still on the right side of the law.

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