Employee Orientation Resources

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This page is designed to provide new staff members with the resources they need to succeed at Free Geek. There is a large amount of information on this page (and in all of the pages linked to on this page), and it is not intended to be digested all at once. Rather, use this page as a hub for navigating relevant wiki pages and finding the information you need to do your job during your first weeks and months at Free Geek. If you have any questions about what you find here, speak with your supervisor or designated trainer (or ask any staff member who has been around for a while).

Overview of the Organization

Organizational Structure

Who's who by department
Functional org chart (last updated in February)
Non-profit Status
Free Geek is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization according to the IRS. What does this mean? Learn more at: Free Geek's status as a nonprofit. Additionally, all nonprofits are overseen by a board of directors--find out more about what they do and who they are at our Board of Directors page.


Statement on decision-making at Free Geek approved at the Board's February 6 meeting, amended at the Board's February 13 meeting.
This document describes the general principles for how decisions are made at Free Geek and outlines the basic relationships between the Board of Directors, staff, and all other stakeholders.
Consensus process
Many decisions at Free Geek are first approached using the consensus process. Consensus is a group process in which the input of each group member is considered carefully and the ultimate decision reflects general agreement (not to be confused with majority rule or unanimity rule). It is a good idea to learn about how consensus works as you begin attending meetings. Consensus is a good page to look at as you start learning about this process.

Mission Statement

Free Geek's Mission Statement is: to recycle technology and provide access to computers, the Internet, education and job skills in exchange for community service. This statement serves as a basis for all Free Geek programming and decision-making. As a 501(c)3 nonprofit, we are legally obligated to work in ways that are in line with this mission statement.


Free Geek and its affiliates (Free Geek Startups around North America) are guided by Free Geek Principles. These include our basic values and serve as guidelines for how we do business. In addition to following our mission statement, our principles state that we will:

  • Dispose of equipment in an ethical and environmentally responsible manner.
  • Use Free/Open Source Software wherever possible and must promote the Free Software philosophy in other ways, such as transparent collaboration with others (see FOSS wikipedia entry for more info)
  • Provide low- and no-cost computer technology and training to their community.
  • Be democratically run in a non-hierarchical way that is open and transparent to all participants in its programs.
  • Be a non-profit business (as legally defined in their location) and must follow honest business practices and have the stated goal of advancing the common good.

Personnel Policies

HR Policies

The following is a list of official policies (and less official guidelines) related to Human Resources. Please note that some policies apply to all employees, whereas others apply to only to managers or to bargaining unit employees. See your supervisor/designated trainer or the Human Resources Partner (Mark) if you have any questions.

Wages (applies to non-collective only)
Benefits (See also Employee Rights and Benefits)
Holiday Policy
Paid Time Off
Call-In Policy
Breaks and Scheduling (See also Oregon Meal and Rest Period Rules)
Logging hours and overtime policy
Standard Weekly Hours
Maternity-Paternity Leave
Determining Seniority Policy
Employee Class Attendance Policy
Staff Hardware Disbursement Guideline
Reimbursement Policy
Discrimination Compliance Policy
Sexual Harassment Policy
Collective Member Review Policy
Bargaining Unit Review Process
Formal Complaint Procedure
Staff Discipline Policy
Expectations for All Paid Workers

Collective Bargaining Agreement

The Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) is a contract between the Bargaining Unit (all non-collective staff members) and the Management (the Collective), signed July of 2011 and effective until July of 2013. The Bargaining Unit is represented by the Communication Workers of America (CWA), Local 7901, which is generally referred to as the Union. All Bargaining Unit staff hired after the signing of the CBA are required to be dues-paying members of the Union, but can decide how actively they would like to participate in Union activities. All Bargaining Unit staff members, regardless of start date, are protected by the agreements made in the contract. If you have any questions about the Union or the CBA, see a Union shop steward (currently Vagrant, Eli, and Liliana) or the Human Resources Partner (Mark).

Tools of the Trade

Avenues of Communication

Free Geek uses several different systems to communicate and document information. Knowing which system to use and how to use it can be somewhat of an art, but this overview should give you a good sense for what's what. One of Free Geek's founding principles is transparency, so if you're ever in doubt as to whether to communicate or document something, you should probably do it. As usual, if you have any questions, see your supervisor/designated trainer or any staff member who has been around for a while.


All Free Geek staff members (and some interns) have a Free Geek email address ending with ATfreegeekDOTorg. We rely on email heavily to communicate a wide range of information, and it is best to check your email at least once or twice a day.

You can email individual staff members (see Handles for staff emails) or, as is more common, you can email a list. Email lists (see the list of lists here) have been set up for various committees, floor areas, and other groups to facilitate easy sharing of relevant information between the appropriate parties. During your first days here, you should be subscribed to the lists that are relevant to your job description, which will include your floor areas and committees, along with the lists that all staff members are on (such as paidworkers, regulars, minutes, etc.).

Please review Netiquette at Free Geek, which outlines our guidelines for appropriate email use.

You can check your email from any web browser using Roundcube, but it is recommended that you install an email client on your laptop such as Mozilla Thunderbird (see Thunderbird webmail and Free Geek Email for more details).


The Wiki (aka Freekiwiki) is a tool for collaborative documentation and sharing information among the Free Geek community. Most of the wiki is open to the public for viewing, but you must have a wiki account to edit pages. The Secure Staff Wiki is viewable and editable only by managers, as it mostly includes personnel issues and other confidential topics.

All Free Geek staff members are expected to use the wiki to seek information pertinent to their role and will at least occasionally need to edit/update wiki pages. The wiki is a huge and valuable repository of information--there are currently over 2,000 pages--but finding the information that you need and sifting through outdated pages can be a somewhat daunting task.

Some helpful tips:

  • Check out Help:Contents for a list of useful help pages.
  • Review Freekiwiki best practices for guidelines on how we should be using the wiki.
  • Look over Wiki Tutorial (including the source code--just hit "edit") to learn some basic formatting
  • If you need to find information and you don't know exactly where it is, use the google search--> "search our wiki" on the side bar; the main search box (also on the side bar) works best if you know the exact wording of a page title.
  • Browse Special:Categories to find groupings of pages all related to a particular category.

You should have a training session scheduled with your supervisor/designated trainer in order to learn more about navigating and editing the wiki, but a great way to learn is to dive in and start practicing in the Sandbox.


RT, or Request Tracker is a system for collaboratively keeping track of tasks. We use RT in a variety of contexts at Free Geek, and all staff members should have at least a basic understanding of its functions. Certain areas, like Tech Support and Hardware Grants, use RT frequently to document the work that has been completed for particular tasks. Other reasons for using RT include requesting supplies, requesting technical changes or features from the Technocrats, requesting schedule changes, etc. Learning which queue (ie, which list of tasks) to use will ensure that your requests and documentation are viewed by the appropriate people.

You should have a training session scheduled with your supervisor/designated trainer that includes an RT tutorial, but in the meantime, check out Learning RT.


Talon is our current Application Server. Every staff member has a Talon username and password set up so that you can log in to your "virtual desktop" from any computer on the network. This is a great way to store data on a central server that you can access from anywhere in the building; there are also shared folders on Talon so that working groups can access and edit collaborative documents/projects.

On a diskless terminal (a computer with no hard drive--it boots from the network), you can sign into Talon on the initial sign-in screen. From any other computer (such as your laptop), you can connect to Talon by doing the following:

  1. Go to Places >>> Connect to Server...
  2. Change "Service Type" to "SSH".
  3. For Server, type in "talon"
  4. For User Name, type in your username
  5. Click Connect
  6. You will be prompted for your password, and then you should have a Talon file browser pop up, which includes your home folder and all shared folders.

The Free Geek Database (FGdb) is the in-house software that helps us keep track of a wide variety of data, including volunteer and donor info, gizmo flow, income, staff hours, and more. You can access the database while on the Free Geek network (not wireless) by typing "data" into the address line (where you'd usually put a full URL). Some of the database is visible to anyone, but most features can only be accessed by having a username and password.

Some things that all staff members should be able to do on the database include logging staff hours and checking the volunteer schedule. Depending on your job, you may use the database for many other tasks, like logging volunteer hours, viewing reports on the gizmos and money flowing through our organization, etc.

You should have a training session scheduled with your supervisor/designated trainer that includes a wiki tutorial, but in the meantime, log in and start looking around.


Free Geek has a multi-line phone system in place throughout the building, and it is very likely that you will use at least one of these phones. Some phones are for specific people at their desk (staff who are likely to be called directly), and some phones are in shared areas (like the front desk and meeting room). Learn about how to use the phones at Phone System Howto, or ask a staff member (or front desk intern) who is familiar with their functions. Also, check out the Phone Extension List for a list of staff/areas with phones and their extension.


As a Free Geek staff member, you will most likely participate in at least one regularly scheduled meeting. Many of the decisions made and actions taken at Free Geek are result of the work of groups that meet on a regular basis. We also have bi-monthly All Staff Meetings to make sure that everyone on staff is up on the big happenings in the organization.

Meetings are frequently run by a facilitator and documented by a scribe, and these roles generally rotate in a predictable manner through the attendees of that meeting. Check out Meeting Tips to learn more about the responsibilities of the facilitator and scribe (and Scribe for even more tips). Your supervisor/designated trainer should do a Facilitator/Scribe Training with you before you are expected to take these roles on.

Budget and Spending

Since 2010, Free Geek's annual budget has been approximately $1.2 million. Budgeting and financial updates are emailed out to the board and staff on a monthly basis by the Administrative Services Department. Our biggest expense is staffing, with rent/occupancy coming in a distant second. Our biggest sources of income are 1) the thrift store, 2) recycling, and 3) monetary donations. Learn more about the budget at Budgets Spending and Administration.

Free Geek will reimburse staff, volunteers, and board members for reasonable expenses incurred that are directly related to Free Geek's operation and mission. If you are unsure as to whether Free Geek will foot the bill for a particular expense, check with your supervisor or Department Point Person. Expenses that are under $100 require no approval--you can go for it and document the transaction using the IOU/Reimbursement Form at the Donations Desk. Anything over $100 will require some amount of approval; see Staff Spending Guidelines for more details. Free Geek also reimburses for mileage costs when driving a personal vehicle on Free Geek business; see Reimbursement for mileage.

Who we are & What we do

Overview of Programs

As a staff member, it is important for you to have a basic understanding of Free Geek's programs so that you can answer questions and let volunteers know what opportunities exist. Below is a list of our main programs (and their sub-programs)

  • Adoption Program: Work 24 hours in either Receiving or Recycling, and earn a FreekBox computer.
  • Build Program: A step-by-step program in which you learn the process for evaluating and refurbishing computers. If you build 5 for us, you can build the 6th for yourself (within FreekBox specs) to take home.
    • Laptop Build: An Advanced Build (or post-Build) program in which volunteers evaluate and build laptops for Hardware Grants and the Thrift Store. Only volunteers who have completed the regular Build program can request to work in Laptops.
    • MacBuild (or MacLand): An Advanced Build (or post-Build) program in which volunteers evaluate and build Macintosh/Apple computers, mostly for the Thrift Store or Online Sales. Only volunteers who have completed the regular Build program can request to work in MacLand.
  • Volunteer Internships: Regularly scheduled volunteer positions (usually once or twice a week) in which the intern takes on some heightened level of responsibility as compared to a "normal" volunteer, generally designed to help people develop job skills. We have internships in many areas, including Tech Support, the Front Desk, Hardware Testing, Recycling, Hardware Grants, etc. See program description and currently available internships on the website.
  • Hardware Grants: Our program for giving out computers and other hardware to qualifying organizations (generally community service/social change organizations). Learn more about the process and who qualifies on the website.
  • Education Program: Computer classes taught by Free Geek volunteers that are free and open to the general public (as long as they sign up at the front desk. See the website for more info and a current class listing.
  • Sales: The overarching department for selling gizmos that have been donated. This is what keeps our organization afloat!
    • Thrift Store: The retail center in Free Geek where people can purchase used gizmos. The store is the largest component of sales by a good bit.
    • Online Sales: Some of the gizmos that come through are sold on Ebay.
    • Bulk Sales: Some other gizmos that come through are sold to "bulk buyers"--representatives from businesses who shop from the warehouse and buy things like printers and wall warts that we have too much of.

Oregon E-Cycles

Free Geek is an official collection site for Oregon E-Cycles, a program established by Oregon's Electronics Recycling Law in 2009 that makes it easy and affordable to recycle electronics. Any individual, household, or small business (fewer than 10 employees) can recycle computers, monitors, or televisions for free at any E-cycles collection site. Businesses with more than 10 employees may be charged a fee if they bring more than seven of the mentioned electronic devices for recycling.

As a collection site for Oregon E-Cycles, we are audited each year to ensure that we are following proper procedures and maintaining environmentally responsible recycling practices. It is important for Free Geek staff members to understand the program so that we can inform our donors about how it works and uphold proper procedures. To learn more, see Ewaste Training or visit the Oregon DEQ website.

Free Geek Elevator Speech

Free Geek History and Culture

Health & Safety

Free Geek is a light industrial work place, and it's very important for staff and volunteers to follow safety protocols. During your first weeks, you should have a safety orientation with Darryl or a representative of the Safety Committee. In the meantime, please read our Safety Policy and learn how to give a Safety Spiel to volunteers.

All employees should also be familiar with our First Aid Kits--where they are, what's in them, and how to use them. If you ever take action to assist an injured person on Free Geek premises, please follow our Injury Logging Procedure. Finally, you should be familiar with the Evacuation Plan in case of emergency that requires vacating the building.


Free Geek Glossary