Staff Handbook

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The staff handbook will be a collection of the essential policies and procedures we expect a staff member to be aware of. The online version will be the most up to date, but if needed we should be able to print out a hard copy for new staff members to formally agree to when they are hired.

Holiday Policy

Template:Holiday Policy

Logging hours and overtime policy

Template:Logging hours and overtime policy

Advances on payroll to staff members


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Information remaining behind may no longer be relevant.


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We have an actual procedure in place for advances. This page is outdated. Please speak to HR if you want or need an advance. -- Mkille 23:49, 19 April 2013 (UTC)

This is a page concerning a policy or procedure in development.
Once fleshed out, we'll consider it for adoption as official policy at Free Geek.

Staff Handbook: This policy explains how a Free Geek employee may get an advance on his/her paycheck
List of Policies - Policy Development


Body that set the policy(s) on [lists.freegeek_meeting_Minutes Date Adopted].

There is no guarantee that Free Geek will be able to give an advance to a staff member, however we recognize that there will occasionally be a need for an advance.

  • Advances should be cleared through the beancounters group.
  • An advance should not exceed forty percent of the amount the worker normally receives in a paycheck (before taxes).
  • Advances should not be routinely given out over several consecutive months.
  • In no circumstances will an advance be given out if the beancounters group believes there will not be enough funds to cover the advance and the normal cash flow needs of Free Geek.
  • If the total amount owed exceeds forty percent of the worker's normal paycheck (before taxes) or if there has been no payment in a three month period, then beancounters will arrange for automatic deductions that would pay off the debt within a year's time.
  • Staff may get paid early: A staff member may receive an advance for up to her whole paycheck if it is paid back with her next paycheck.

Arriving Late and Cancellations

Arriving Late and Cancellations Policy: You on staff? You going to be late? You better read this.
List of Policies - Policy Development


This is a long standing policy, set by the staff collective prior to 2005. Updated by the staff collective and HR in Spring 2011.

Revised by the staff collective in February 2012 as the Call-In_Policy.

Collective Member Review Policy

The Free Geek Collective ceased to exist on February 28, 2013. For information on current staff, please go to Staff. For detailed information about the re-organization of Free Geek's management structure, please go to 2013_Restructuring_Documents.

This policy was last updated at a Staff Collective meeting on Friday, June 29, 2012.


Regular performance reviews of staff is a best practice for organizations of all sizes and missions. They should not replace informal communication or serve as a formal complaint process; instead, they are opportunities to help staff align themselves with the expectations that are placed on them and to assist them in achieving their stated goals in their positions. Where appropriate, Free Geek also uses the review process to help the Collective make a decision about the status of a member within the Collective.
Performance evaluation is a core supervisory function. Supervisory relationships must be characterized by open and honest communication in order to be both effective and ethical. At Free Geek, we have chosen to have collective supervision of Collective members. It is therefore inappropriate and counterproductive to have anonymous commenting by Collective members during the Collective performance review process. It is also inappropriate and ineffective for a supervisor to refuse to conduct performance evaluations. Timely participation in all Collective reviews is a performance expectation of each Collective member, and anonymous commenting is not allowed.
Free Geek aspires to a democratic and, where possible, non-hierarchical organizational culture. Bargaining unit employees are therefore invited to provide feedback as part of Collective member reviews. This participation is never mandatory, and it will always be anonymous unless an individual employee requests to be identified in connection with their feedback.
Collective members currently are reviewed around 3 months after hire, around 6 months after hire, and annually around their dates of hire.
The HR Administrator is currently the review coordinator for all Collective members except for him- or herself. Another member of the HR Committee should be chosen in a timely manner to coordinate the HR Administrator's review.

Procedure and Timeline

  1. HR should maintain a list of current job descriptions on the wiki.
  2. HR should create or update a separate instance of an online review survey for each staff member to be reviewed.
  3. In the last week of each month, HR should sends out an email publicizing which Collective members' reviews are coming up in the next month. (Who they are and whether the reviews are 3-month, 6-month, annual or ad-hoc.) The email has links to the job descriptions and the review surveys.
  4. The deadline for feedback that will be formally incorporated into reviews should be the 10th of the month. Feedback received after that should still be looked at, but it should be treated as informal.
  5. Review coordinators should encourage direct co-workers in person to complete their forms by the 10th.
  6. Each review coordinator should forward the results of each survey to the reviewed staff member by the 15th.
  7. Review coordinators should sit down with reviewed staff members by the 20th.
  8. Reviewed staff should complete their written responses to questions, concerns and criticisms by the 25th. Collective members should send their full responses to the staff collective list and redacted (as necessary) responses to the paidworkers list.
  9. Collective member reviews should be discussed at the Collective meeting on the last Friday of the month, unless it falls before the 28th, in which case they should be discussed on the first Friday of the following month. These discussions should be substantive and should occur in the absence of the reviewed Collective member.
  10. The HR Committee should take the results of the Collective meeting discussion of reviews and prepare draft goals and expectations documents to be approved at the next Collective meeting. These documents should guide staff activities and feedback over the next review cycle.


  • Each review should result in an overall performance evaluation of Excellent, Good, Satisfactory, Needs Improvement or Unsatisfactory.
  • An evaluation of Satisfactory or above is needed at a 6-month review in order to promote a Collective member to full Collective status.
  • An evaluation of Needs Improvement at a 6-month review triggers an ad-hoc review to occur in another 3 months, i.e., a 9-month review. An evaluation of Unsatisfactory at a 6-month review triggers termination.
  • An evaluation of either Needs Improvement or Unsatisfactory at a 9-month review triggers termination.
  • Since consensus is required to award full Collective status, failure to reach consensus about an evaluation following a 6-month or 9-month review triggers termination.

Determining Seniority Policy


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Determining Seniority Policy: Determining Seniority Policy FINAL DRAFT.
List of Policies - Policy Development


This policy was proposed by a subcommittee of Geiner, Kathie, and Richard, posted to the staff email list, and then discussed and agreed upon at the weekly staff meeting on April 16, 2004.

Seniority is defined using a 'who started working as a paid collective member earliest' criteria.

If a worker ceases working at Free Geek for a period of more than one year, that worker loses their seniority. If they are re-hired within one year's time, their seniority remains intact.


(Another twist we considered would have been to limit the number of times a person can be gone for up to a year without losing seniority. For example, we could have said it can only be allowed to happen once. The full staff has not talked about this yet, but could implement policy regarding it in the future.)

Current Ordering of Seniority

(verified 3/26/2011)

  1. Richard Seymour -- Administrative Services Department Coordinator
  2. Liane Kocka -- Reuse and Recycling Department Coordinator
  3. Darryl Kan -- Recycling Coordinator 2
  4. Sean Ellefson -- Reuse Program Coordinator, Laptop Build
  5. Cynthia Prevatte -- Reuse Program Coordinator, Macs and Prebuild
  6. Darren Heiber -- Education and Hardware Grants Coordinator
  7. Stephen Getman -- Volunteer/Front Desk Coordinator

Free Geek Structure

The Free Geek Collective ceased to exist on February 28, 2013. For information on current staff, please go to Staff. For detailed information about the re-organization of Free Geek's management structure, please go to 2013_Restructuring_Documents.

Free Geek is governed by its workers and volunteers. It's a complicated place and there are numerous working groups and committees involved. Here's a rundown in a nutshell.


These directly work to fulfill the mission of Free Geek. Some have meetings or associated email lists and queues in RT.

  • Adoption Program - Work 24 hours, earn a computer
  • Build Program - Learn to build computers, keep the 6th you assemble
  • Gapsters - Computers intended for free internet access which we supply to coffee shops & other public places.
  • Hardware Grants - Grants out computers and other hardware to non-profits
  • Thrift Store - Reuses (in the form of sales) many inexpensive gizmos and a few fancy ones, too.

The Big Three

decision-making and work-doing bodies

Board of Directors
The board is responsible for fiscal and legal oversight of the organization. It is made up of people elected by the Community Council.
Community Council
The council is open to all volunteers, staff, and other interested community member. It looks at the long term picture of Free Geek and sets general policy. It coordinates policy making between the various working groups as needed. (See the Founding Document of the Council for more details on the scope of the council.)
Staff Collective
The staff collective is responsible for day to day operations and is made up of hired staff members.

Working Groups

this is largely out of date Laurel 00:37, 10 February 2011 (UTC)

Groups are volunteer driven and are designed to support the various programs at Free Geek. They tend to meet after hours and have associated email lists and queues in RT.

Volunteer system administration
<ass AT freegeek DOT org>
Volunteer programmers
<coders AT freegeek DOT org>>
Volunteers working in the day to day operations of Free Geek. ("The Core" is more of a descriptive term than a cohesive working group.)
<core AT freegeek DOT org>>
Hardware Grants
Volunteers helping to distribute hardware to organizations (apart from the Build and Adoption programs).
<grants AT freegeek DOT org>
Community Builders
In charge of room use, tabling, relations with neighbors, and networking with other organizations.
<commies AT freegeek DOT org>
In charge of media outreach & relations, ads & marketing, the main Free Geek website, and corporate donations solicitation
<pr AT freegeek DOT org> OR, if someone from the media is asking, then <press AT freegeek DOT org>
In charge of tours, volunteer rewards, core breakfast, front desk, public email addresses (like Volunteer@ and Info@), and large donation thank you notes.
<inreach AT freegeek DOT org>
In charge of Free Geek parties and festivals, like Geek Prom, Geek Fair, and the holiday party.
<events AT freegeek DOT org>
Optimization and Priorities group
A Council workgroup which discusses what we're already doing and how we can do it better, compares proposals for expansion, & helps people turn their ideas into reality.

Standing Staff Committees

I think this page should be merged into the Perpetual Meeting Calendar, so all the info is in one place. RfS 02:09, 8 December 2010 (UTC)

These standing committees of the Staff Collective are designed to oversee all the areas of Free Geek, implementing policies that are set by other groups and making policy suggestions to those other groups. Each committee has a mailing list and a queue in RT. Standing committees are ongoing. Ad hoc committees are temporary.

Standing Action Committee
Note: As of 2011, the Action Committee has become the R & R Committee (Recycling and Receiving)
Mission: Building and equipment security, staff and volunteer safety, supply, waste removal, and the sale of scrap material.
Programs: Recycling, receiving, maintenance and design of the physical plant, building security, general safety, relationships with neighbors.
Email: action at
Members: Liane, Darryl, Cliff, John
Standing C7 Committee
Mission: The standing committee structure, liaison with board and council especially regarding policy development, financial considerations.
Programs: Policy development, load balancing of the committees, liaison with Free Geek Community Council and Free Geek Board of Directors, nominations to the various committees, proposals concerning changes to the committee structure itself; volunteer and staff scheduling; accounting and financial oversight.
Email: c7 at
Ad Hoc Events Committee
Programs: In charge of major Free Geek parties and festivals, like Geek Prom, Geek Fair, and the holiday party. Meets seasonally, as needed. Generally, monthly for a few months before an event, then every other week, then weekly, then freak out right before the event.
Email: events at
Standing HR Committee
Mission: Provides oversight for those areas of Free Geek pertaining to the health and well being of volunteers and staff.
Programs: Human resources, volunteer and staff discipline, procedures regarding theft from Free Geek, mediation between conflicting parties, staff and intern reviews, health care and benefits packages, employee manual, oversee the hiring process, trainings.
Email: hr at
Likely Suspects: Richard, Liane, Mark
Standing Inreach Committee
Mission:Inreach is a committee organized specifically to benefit the volunteer program. It's mission is to recognize Free Geek's volunteers and enhance the quality of volunteer programs while creating an atmosphere of support and success for every volunteer. To oversee aspects of volunteer appreciation, tours, volunteer feedback, and to create a welcoming, accessible environment for all volunteers.
Inreach's role is to:
  1. Improve accessibility to programs.
  2. Work closely with staff and volunteers to improve volunteer programs, strengthen teamwork, and further Free Geek's mission.
  3. Improve communication with volunteers – volunteer info Board and/or email lists. Email suggestions to this email list.
Email: inreach at
Programs: tours, volunteer appreciation, volunteer suggestion box
Likely Suspects: Volunteer and Front Desk Coordinator, NPA's, and at least one staff person from each department.
Standing Education Committee
Mission: Facilitating access to information through documentation, training and support.
Programs: Education, documentation, liaison with Distro group, technical support, Free Geek library.
Email: grok at
Likely Suspects: Paul, Darren
Standing PR Committee;
Mission: Do PR, see here for a limmerick and haiku
Programs: In charge of media outreach & relations, ads & marketing, the main Free Geek website, membership development, tabling events and networking with other organizations.
Email: pr at
Likely Suspects: Amelia, Darren, Misty

Standing Production Committee
Mission: Manage the flow of gizmos to ensure effective reuse by overseeing Build, Mac Build, Laptop Build, Advanced Testing, Printer Reuse, and Hardware Grants
Programs: Prebuild, Build, Mac Build, Laptop Build, Server Build, Advanced Testing, Printer Reuse
Email: production at
Likely Suspects: eBeth, Cliff, Amelia, Sean, Brian, Darren, Cynthia, Vagrant(?)
Standing Propagation Committee
Mission: Outreach to organizations to promote reuse of hardware and use of Free and Open Source Software.
Current Staff Members:
Programs: Liaison with Free Geek startups (the replication of Free Geek elsewhere), liaison with GAP volunteers, Hardware Grants.
Email: propagation at
Likely Suspects: Richard, Vagrant


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Standing Sales Committee
Mission: To oversee long-term planning of retail and online sales
Programs: Thrift store, bulk and online sales
Likely Suspects: Brian, Lynnae, Mike, Aradan, Liliana
Standing Technocrats Committee
Mission: The selection or creation, maintenance, and technical security of hardware and software used at or installed by Free Geek.
Programs: Liaison with Coders group, liaison with ASS group, liaison with Distro group, selection of software commonly used at Free Geek, computer security, technical infrastructure.
Email: technocrats at
Likely Suspects: Ryan, Vagrant, Paul, Sean, Jason

See the Perpetual Meeting Calendar for meeting times and attenders.

Ad Hoc Staff Committees

From time to time, there are also ad hoc committees that meet while needed before disbanding. Examples of this would be:

Interview committee
Recommended by HR and approved by the collective to interview people applying for paid staff positions
Resolution Committee.
Recommended by HR and approved by the collective to bring to resolution issues that could result in the termination of a staff member if not dealt with.
Review Panel
Recommended by HR and approved by the collective to coordinate reviews of collective members.

Hiring Policy


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  1. Priorities -- The Council work group Optimus Prime formulates hiring strategy and policy, including setting priorities about which positions should get filled first.
  2. Job Description and Criteria -- The Council discusses positions as they come up, reviewing and developing jobs descriptions and the criteria for hiring people to fill positions.
  3. Implementation -- The Staff then implements Council policy and does the actual hiring.

(Note: We also discussed the reality that there are different kinds of vacancies. In some cases, people are already working at Free Geek either unpaid positions or positions paid from outside sources. If the "new" position simply amounts to a change in funding, an actual hiring process may not be needed, but this gives rise to new complications. For instance, there may be more than one person in the Free Geek community who can do the job, so an internal process is still needed).

The staff has developed a Hiring Checklist as a procedure to implement the above policy.


After Hours Access: The locks list is for people (staff and core volunteers) who have keys. It should be used for reporting issues with closing (unlocked doors, stuff left on, etc.) or suspected break-ins.
List of Policies - Policy Development


After hours, when there's no event or meeting, only authorized keyholders can be in the building. A keyholder can make instance by instance exceptions to this rule, providing keyholder stays in building and is responsible for those persons. Such exceptions should be reported to the staff list for review.


To Receive a Key

  • All staff collective members should have keys
  • Paid interns are granted keys as needed
  • Core volunteers who need a key must first
    • be approved by staff via staff meeting
    • oriented to closing procedures
    • added to the locks list
    • Given a code to the alarm system and instructions on how to use it
    • Introduced to every-one via the locks list.

Purging the locks list

The combination or locks may be changed when we suspect security has been breached. When the locks or the combination is changed, everyone will be removed from the locks list and re-added as they make it known they need access (and if necessary, are re-approved).


We used to have a combination lock box with a key inside, now we issue keys.

See also

Resolution Committee

Resolution Committee: Defines resolution committee
List of Policies - Policy Development

This was developed over several years and finally agreed to at a staff meeting on September 4, 2009.

  1. A resolution committee (RC) is composed of members of the staff collective selected by the Human Resources committee (HR) when a problem or group of related problems involving a staff member arises and reach(es) a critical level.
    • The procedure for establishing a Resolution Committee:
      • HR committee recommends that a Resolution Committee be set up and suggests the committee's make-up; HR also suggests the scope of the Resolution Committee.
      • The staff collective discusses, and approves, these recommendations.
  2. An RC is always created within the framework of any current grievance and discipline policy as agreed to by the staff collective. This policy is not outlined here, but must be followed by the RC. (This would include documentation of incidents, warnings, meeting professional goals, etc.)
  3. An RC is charged with the task of resolving the problem(s). The RC's first duty is to specify the scope of the problem(s) and communicate that to the staff collective and any others are likely to be directly affected by the problem. The staff collective should raise any concerns, including changes in scope and the appropriateness of the RC's formation at the first available opportunity. The staff collective may require the HR committee to dissolve the RC, re-form it, or adjust its scope.
  4. An RC is empowered to communicate with all other groups, committees, and individuals at Free Geek for the purpose of investigating the problems within its defined scope.
  5. An RC must propose a recommended strategy for resolving the problem as quickly as possible and in the best interests of Free Geek as a whole. This strategy should be outlined in specific steps that can be implemented to address the problem.
  6. The RC may put items on agendas of any group at Free Geek in order to bring the problem(s) to resolution. These items should be dealt with by those groups as items with a high degree of importance.
  7. An RC may recommend to the staff collective that a staff member be terminated, removed from the collective, and/or change his/her employment status at Free Geek. In the case of termination, the reason for termination must be specifically described and the decision must be considered by the whole staff collective. The person under consideration for termination must be able to speak, but is not allowed to block the decision of the larger group. The person under consideration for termination may choose a representative, either a third party or another member of the staff collective to speak on his or her behalf as well.
  8. An RC must report on its findings in writing to the staff collective and any others are likely to be directly affected by the problem.
  9. An RC is automatically dissolved when its recommended strategy is proposed, items have been placed on the appropriate groups' agendas, and its written report has been provided to the staff collective.

Staff Categories

In general staff means anyone who is paid by Free Geek to work at Free Geek. (Note: often when people use the term "staff" they use it as shorthand for "staff collective".)

Workers that get paid through outside agencies (i.e. paid job training programs) and volunteers (even volunteer interns and core volunteers) are not considered staff.

Collective positions

This is the group of people who are hired on a long term basis to oversee all the day to day work at Free Geek. While each member has areas of specific responsibility, each member also takes responsibility on some level for the whole thing. That is, while other staff members can say "not my department -- go bug someone else", collective members have to at least know where to direct issues, and ultimately deal with them if needed. Collective positions are salaried and come with benefits (health care, paid holidays, vacation/sick days, and 403(b).)

Probationary collective members vs. full collective members
Collective members have a six month probationary period, after which they are full collective members. During the probationary period the individual and the collective need to decide if the person is a good match for the position and the collective. When figuring out how long someone has been in the collective we go by the date they were hired into the collective (not the date they gained full status).

There are some concrete duties that all collective members share:

  • a collective member must serve on at least one of the Standing Staff Committees. (A full time member serves on two of these committees.)
  • a collective member attends and participates in staff meetings, including rotating through the facilitator and scribe roles.
  • a collective member takes responsibility for overarching management of organization.
  • a collective member has to deal with volunteer complaints and discipline problems as they arise, rather than pass them off to someone else.
  • a collective member participates in peer reviews of other staff and collective members.
  • a collective member coordinates volunteers as an expected part of their job.

(See the Collective Level Expectations page for a more detailed list.)

Non-profit Apprentices

Non-profit Apprentices (NPAs) are staff members that work for a limited amount of time in a targeted area. These positions are aimed at people needing job skills, for example young people right out of high school or college. Apprentices are usually part time workers, and they usually work for about nine months. NPAs are paid an hourly wage. Being an apprentice at Free Geek does not lead to a position in the staff collective.

Exploratory positions

Exploratory positions are paid positions that are set up so we can try out a new program and see if it merits a new collective position, an internship, or something else. Workers in these positions are paid an hourly wage.


Substitutes are people that fill in when the schedule has gaps in it due to staff members leaving, getting sick, or taking vacation or leave. There is no guarantee of work continuing or regular work. Substitutes are paid an hourly wage.

Committed non-collective positions

Committed non-collective staff members are paid to work at least 24 hours per week and have negotiated a commitment to work at Free Geek for at least one year with the staff collective. These positions are paid an hourly wage. They receive a week's paid time off (for vacation and sick days) per year, and receive Free Geek subsidized health care benefits.


There have been other staff positions than those listed above. For example we have had "contract workers" cover many of the duties of build coordinator, tech support coordinator, and printer coordinator in the past. These people are paid an hourly wage.


Ideally, a worker collective is an egalitarian group of people where everyone has equal access to decision making. There are limits to how pure we can be with this ethic, however. For instance, we need substitute coverage that is by nature very part time and sporadic, and it's impractical to bring all substitutes, however temporary their status, into the collective.

Another issue arises when someone who contributes well to Free Geek but does not want to take on the added responsibilities that go with being in the collective. Too many people like that fosters a situation where the collective shrinks in size to the point where it's a small group of managers compared to a larger pool of workers, even though no one in the collective wanted that to happen!

In developing the Collective Level Expectations page, the staff collective agreed that collective members must be scheduled for 28 hours per week normally, though can go as low as 24 hours on a temporary basis if approved.

See Also

The staff collective has approved a Staff Ratios policy that uses these definitions.

Movement between categories

This chart illustrates current practice for paths between categories. Solid lines indicate paths that have been taken and are still current practice from time to time. The grey dotted lines indicate a path that has been taken in the past, but is no longer current practice. The dashed green lines indicate paths that have not been tried or need additional thought before continuing.

Bubbles with grey borders are not existent at this time. Those with black borders are currently existent.

This is a graph with borders and nodes. Maybe there is an Imagemap used so the nodes may be linking to some Pages.

None of these paths speak to the process of actual mechanics of moving from one category to another. For example, this chart does not show that there is a hiring committee and/or a collective decision involved in moving someone into the collective, though that is the case.

Staff Discipline Policy


Free Geek's Disciplinary Procedure will be used only when necessary and as a last resort. Where possible, informal and/or formal counseling will be used to resolve matters prior to any disciplinary action being taken. The procedure is intended to be constructive rather than punitive but recognizes the fact sanctions must be applied in some circumstances.

These principles apply to discipline of bargaining unit employees and staff collective members. However, this particular procedure applies to the discipline of staff collective members.

A collective member can discuss any part of this policy with any other member of the Staff Collective. They can help clarify an employee's rights as well as give guidance and support where it may be needed. Every individual has the right to representation at any point during the disciplinary process.

This Procedure is to be maintained independent of any Procedures for performance review.

This Procedure is an interim solution, designed to provide needed clarity regarding discipline issues in a manner consistent with Free Geek's current structure and culture. It strives to balance the need for transparency, fairness, effiency and due process. As an interim policy, this policy's execution and effects should be reviewed occassionally by both the Staff Collective and Board, and the policy should be amended, replaced or abolished as the situation demands.

N.B. Nothing in this policy may usurp any party's legal rights, including the right to bring legal proceedings where appropriate.

Procedure For Formal Discipline & Investigation

The procedure for discipline is a five stage policy starting with counseling and moving through a series of verbal and written warnings before ending with the possibility of demotion or dimissal as a last resort. It is intended that this be followed sequentially, moving from one stage to the next only when it is clear that a staff member has been shown not to have met a clear set of expectations set in the previous stage. Exceptions are to be made only in the case of Gross Misconduct when, at a Department Point Person's discretion, they may start at a later stage as they consider appropriate.

At each stage, excepting dismissal, care must be taken to record in writing:

  • the reasons for the action taking place
  • the expectations that have now been set for the employee
  • what are the next steps to be taken by employee and Department Point Person
  • when the expectations are to be reviewed.

It is important that the expectations set meet the S.M.A.R.T. criteria of being Specific, Measurable, Appropriate, Realistic and Time-bound. Wherever possible, Department Point Persons should work with staff members to arrive at a mutually agreed upon set of expectations and time scales.

Department Point Persons have a clear duty to consider whether they have any personal involvement, or whether any conflict of interest might arise. If so, they must bring the matter to the attention of another Department Point Person and hand the matter over to them.

Staff members have the right to have a work colleague attend any disciplinary procedure with them and to consult that person in private. Staff members may request this at any time before or during a meeting. When such a request is made, the Department Point Person must delay any meeting until the work colleague has arrived and has time to consult privately with the staff member or end the meeting. Though counseling is considered informal, it should still meet the criteria set within this policy - i.e., it needs a written record and a set of clear expectations to be agreed upon.

Department Point Persons have the right to bring in others in order to aid them in investigating the matter and deciding on the course or outcome. They are strongly advised to do so if they have any doubts or questions about anything. At the first opportunity, they should gather evidence and take statements from witnesses and/or the staff member's supervisors or co-workers and prepare a written report.


Prior to any formal disciplinary measure being undertaken, a Department Point Person has a responsibility to resolve any issues through informal counseling, where appropriate. Counseling is a non-punitive measure and may come at the request of a staff member as well as a Department Point Person, with the clear understanding that such a request will not have any effect on any subsequent disciplinary measure or performance review, or the conditions of employment in any way.

Verbal Warning

The first step after counseling is the verbal warning. It is appropriate when it is necessary to take action against a staff member for minor misconduct, or where improvements sought through counseling have not been forthcoming. Despite the name, it is important that a written record is kept and provided to the staff member. They are at the discretion of Department Point Persons and may not be blocked. There is no appeal of a verbal warning, but staff members have the right to have a statement entered into their personnel files if they wish to dispute anything.

When issuing a verbal warning, Department Point Persons should arrange to meet with the staff member to discuss the matter and set expectations. They should be warned that failure to meet these expectations, or repetiton of the misconduct, may lead to further disciplinary action. A copy of the written record must be given to the staff member within seven days of the disciplinary action, and a copy filed in their personnel files. A copy must be also be sent to all other Department Point Persons for review. This procedure is to be followed in all subsequent stages.

Verbal warnings expire after 6 months, as explained below under section "Time Scales/Terms of Expiry".

First Written Warning

The next step of the disciplinary procedure is the first written warning. It may be issued in a number of circumstances:

  • as a second stage after a verbal warning if the expectations documented in the written record have not been met at the end of the specified review period or if there is a re-occurrence of the misconduct within six months.
  • where the offense is of a serious nature that falls short of Gross Misconduct, and where a verbal warning is not appropriate.
  • where the recurrence or accumulation of offenses will lead to more severe disciplinary action, for example persistent absence without explanation.

First written warnings expire after 12 months. They may be appealed by the staff member to the relevant body as described under the "Appeals" section. The staff member must be informed of this right at the meeting with their Department Point Person.

Department Point Persons should follow the same procedure as verbal warnings and must submit a copy of the written record to all other Department Point Persons for review. If there is consensus among them (excepting those who have a direct involvement or another conflict of interest) they may retroactively revoke the written warning and refer the matter back to the originating Department Point Person. The other Department Point Persons have a duty to consider the fairness, appropriateness and consistency of other Department Point Persons' actions and should use this power to ensure these.

Final Written Warning

Final Written Warning is the last stage in the Disciplinary procedure before demotion or dismissal takes place. It is used when:

  • A staff member engages in Gross Misconduct that falls short of the need for instant dismissal
  • A staff member persists in minor misconduct that has already been the subject of a First Written Warning.

Like a first written warning, it may be appealed by a staff member and is subject to a retroactive block by a consensus of the other Department Point Persons.

A Final Written Warning expires after a period of 18 months.


A Department Point Person may recommend dismissal or demotion of a staff member if:

  • Prior attempts to address the situation at all appropriate lower levels have failed
  • The situation is one of Gross Misconduct, deemed by the Department Point Person to supercede less severe steps

If the recommendation is not overridden by consensus of the other Department Point Persons, the staff member is given notice of the recommendation and placed on paid administrative leave for five business days. This leave is meant to serve as a cooling off-period, giving the staff member a chance to prepare for and file an appeal of the recommendation or to tender their resignation. This period also gives the Department Point Person time to consider and reflect on the situation before making a decision of such consequence.

The staff member may appeal the recommendation, according to the Appeals procedures outlined below. If the first appeal is unsuccessful, the recommendation continues on to the Staff Collective as a whole. The Staff Collective as a whole, excepting those who have a direct involvement or another conflict of interest, makes the decision to accept or reject the recommendation.

If the Collective as a whole fails to reject the recommendation, the recommendation is carried out, and the staff member is either dismissed or demoted in accordance with the recommendation.

A decision to demote results in the staff member being placed on an additional five business days' administrative leave. During this leave, the Collective must present the staff member with the specific terms of the demotion, including:

  • New job status/description, if applicable
  • New reporting/oversight arrangements, if applicable
  • Any changes in compensation, including benefits
  • Any other terms or conditions that have changed as a result of the decision
  • Notice that any further repetition of the issue will result in Dismissal

A decision to dismiss results in the immediate termination of the staff member. At this time, the staff member is to receive written notice of the decision, explicitly including the steps to undertake a final appeal to the Board of Directors. Steps regarding end-of-employment procedures are to be carried out, as established, at this time.

Time Scales/Terms of Expiry

The steps of the Discipline Policy are meant to be corrective, not punitive. Each step in the process involves a clearly stated time frame, during which repeat failure can trigger movement to the next step in the process. Escalation of the disciplinary procedure occurs only on repetition or failure to address a specific problem or closely related matters.

The time frame for each step increases with severity, as defined here:

  • Verbal Warning -- 6 months
  • First Written Warning -- 12 months
  • Final Written Warning -- 18 months

This term is defined for each step of this procedure, and is to be communicated to the staff member as part of the written record.

If no further incident is recorded, at the conclusion of the time frame, the infraction is considered resolved, and the incident is to be removed from the staff member's personnel file, in accordance with [Personnel File Policy]. Once expired, the matter is considered resolved; any further infraction would be treated as a new incident.

Goals and expectations set by a staff member and his/her Department Point Person should involve their own time frames, to allow for adequate scrutiny within the review process. These time frames are independent of those set by the Discipline Procedure. Achievements and improvements may be noted, even if involving prior misconduct or failures from beyond the time frames defined here. But disciplinary steps may not compound based on behavior/performance that would be considered expired as defined in this policy.

Consecutive/Concurrent Warnings

The steps of this policy are meant to address serial failures around similar issues. It is possible for a staff member to have multiple, consecutive disciplinary actions regarding separate issues. These are to be addressed independently.


Staff members have the right to appeal disciplinary actions, as follows.

A staff member may have a coworker of their choosing attend hearings as an advocate.

A staff member will have the opportunity to attend the appeals hearing, and to directly address the appeals body; however, all information to be considered will ideally be contained in the written appeal.

Deliberations are considered an Executive Session, open only to the members of the appeals body; however, the the decision is to be provided to the staff member directly, in writing, and maintained as part of the written record.

Makeup of Appeals Panels

The HR Administrator or any current member of the HR Committee shall be ineligible to serve on an Appeals Panel at any time.

When an Appeals Panel is needed, one should be selected based on random chance of three or four Collective Members who have not yet had any role in the matter or any other conflict of interest. A quorum of three panel members is needed to make any decision.

If at any point the appropriate appeals body is not available (due to lack of quorum, vacations, illness, recusal or any other circumstance that necessitates it), that appeal is channeled directly to the Board of Directors, and the Board will name one or more designees to either round out an existing, short-handed panel of Collective members, or to form an ad hoc panel to serve in a manner consistent with this policy.

It is assumed that Department Point Persons will not participate in appeals, as they will almost certainly have interacted with each proceeding already. However, if circumstances allow (e.g., a DPP returns from extended leave), it is possible for them to serve in such a capacity, provided it is their first contact with that specific incident.

First Appeals Panel

This panel communicates and convenes on ad hoc basis, as required. It may be asked to consider:

  • appeal of a First Written Warning
  • appeal of a Final Written Warning
  • appeal of a recommendation for demotion/dismissal

Second Appeals Panel

This panel communicates and convenes on ad hoc basis, as required. It may be asked to consider:

  • appeal of a Final Written Warning

Board of Directors

An appeal regarding a Collective decision to demote or dismiss an employee may be appealed directly to the Board of Directors. The Board may:

  • consider an appeal as the full Board
  • appoint a subgroup of Board members to hear the appeal
  • appoint an one or more outside designees to hear the appeal
  • appoint any combination of the above, as they deem fit in accordance with this policy

In the interest of maintaining a transparent and fair procedure, it is expected that the Board adopt a strategy for assigning designees prior to facing an actual appeals situation. The mechanics of deciding appeals remains fully at Board discretion, but it should be consistently applied.

Board members and their designees should also recuse themselves if they have prior involvement in the matter or any other conflict of interest.

Threshold for Overriding

Consensus of members in favor of a specific appeals claim is required to override a disciplinary decision or recommendation, at all levels. This consensus requires a quorum of 3 members.

Time Frames for Appeals Actions

At every level of appeal: Appeal must be made within 5 business days of receipt of written decision. Appeal must be heard within 10 business days of receipt of appeal, and the decision communicated in writing within 5 days of hearing.

Grounds for appeal

An appeal should be based on one or more of the following:

  • The disciplinary action is based on factually inaccurate information
  • Free Geek policy or procedure was not properly followed
  • The resulting disciplinary action was inappropriate
  • New information/evidence has arisen
  • The need for disciplinary action was not warranted
  • Separate offences/incidents were inappropriately considered in aggregate

Appeal of Verbal Warning

No appeal per se is allowed for verbal warnings, but a staff member has the right to include a statement to be maintained along with the record of the verbal warning. This statement would be considered should the matter proceed toward further disciplinary action. Information from this statement may, at that time, be sufficient to overturn the initial warning, causing the new incident to be considered as a first offense.

Appeal of First Written Warning

May be appealed to the First Appeals Panel. The First Appeals Panel's decision is final.

Appeal of Final Written Warning

May be appealed to the First Appeals Panel. The decision of of the First Appeals Panel may further be appealed to Second Appeals Panel. The Second Appeals Panel's decision is final.

Appeal of Demotion/Dismissal

Recommendations for demotion or dismissal may be appealed to the First Appeals Panel, prior to the recommendation being acted upon by the Staff Collective at its next regular meeting or at a special meeting held prior to next scheduled meeting.

The decision of the Staff Collective may be appealed to the Board of Directors. The Board's decision is final.

Should a final appeal to the Board of Directors prove successful, the person is reinstated and placed on paid administrative leave retroactively to the date of dismissal. The employee remains on paid administrative leave until the logistics of their return to work are determined, including the resolution of the issue based on the details of the successful appeal.

For example, the Board may determine the reason for dismissal was not merited at all, meaning the person is hired back just as before. Or they may have decided that dismissal was too severe of a consequence and demotion more appropriate. This would require additional details regarding terms of the new position be worked out before the staff member can return.


Oversight is a necessary component of any successful discipline policy. An Oversight Committee will meet periodically to review disciplinary actions and report on them to the collective and to the Board. The Oversight Committee shall be composed of the HR Administrator, another Collective member, and two Board members or their designees. The purpose of the review is to ensure that:

  • Proper procedures were followed, internally and legally.
  • The cause of the disciplinary action is a valid concern.
  • All necessary documentation has been completed.
  • Discipline is being meted out consistently and without favoritism.
  • DPPs and/or others recused themselves from discussion when appropriate.
  • No DPP sought to unduly influence the choice of another DPP.

If the Oversight Committee finds that any of the above criteria have not been met, they are empowered to dismiss the complaint, downgrade the offense, or remove/add notes in the personnel file. If the disciplinary action by a Department Point Person constitutes gross misconduct, the Oversight Committee is empowered to, if necessary, initiate disciplinary action against that Department Point Person.

This committee will meet periodically only according to need; if there are no disciplinary actions to review, no meeting is necessary.

Discipline of Department Point Persons

Any DPP shall be empowered to initiate and conduct disciplinary action regarding any other DPP, subject to the other terms of this policy.

A DPP who is currently the subject of disciplinary action may not initiate and conduct disciplinary action regarding the DPP who is conducting their own disciplinary action, i.e., it is an automatic conflict of interest.

The Collective as a whole shall be empowered to direct a DPP to initiate and conduct disciplinary action regarding a staff member in their department, as well as to formally call for a DPP to initiate and conduct disciplinary action regarding another DPP.


Administrative Leave

At the discretion of their Department Point Person, a staff member may be placed on leave for up to five business days. Administrative Leave may be necessary, for example, to allow an investigation to take place, to give the staff member or Department Point Person time to gather evidence or necessary paperwork, to prevent a staff member from interfering with evidence necessary for an investigation, to prevent them from exerting an influence over others, or to prevent them from being so influenced.

Administrative Leave is not punitive and shall not be used as a disciplinary measure. Nor shall it be used as evidence in, or be allowed to influence, a disciplinary procedure or performance review. Administrative Leave will be at full pay and will not be counted towards a staff member's paid time off. A staff member who has been put on Administrative Leave should receive written notice within three days outlining the reason for suspension, the date and times the suspension starts and ends, and notifying them of their right to appeal. Whenever possible, the staff member should receive written notice prior to, or at the start of, their suspension.

Administrative Leave shall not normally last for more than five business days. If it is felt necessary to extend it, the Department Point Person must first discuss it with all the other Department Point Persons and obtain their consent. The staff member shall then be notified in writing that their suspension will be extended, explain the reasons for the extension, how long the extension will last and notifying the staff member of their right to appeal the extension.

Business Days

Any and all references to time frames in "days" refers to business days, meaning days of Free Geek's normal, full operation. Days Free Geek is closed, or at less than full-time capacity by virtue of its normal schedule, are excluded from these time frames.


Demotion will take the form of a removal of a staff member's collective status and/or transferral to a position with fewer responsibilities or one in which they will receive more direct supervision. It will be used:

  • in instances where previous attempts to resolve the issue have failed, as a final attempt to solve a problem without dismissing a staff member.
  • where a staff member is determined to be incompetent or otherwise unable to carry out their duties but dismissal is not felt to be appropriate.


Dismissal is the sanction of last resort. It is used when misconduct has persisted and all other avenues have been exhausted, or in cases of Gross Misconduct such as theft or violence against another person.


Examples of Minor Misconduct

Listed below are examples of minor misconduct which may trigger the first step of the Disciplinary Procedure. This is not an exhaustive list, and does not pretend to anticipate the nuance of every situation. It is intended to provide guidance to Department Point Persons, and concrete examples to all staff members.

  • Persistent lateness without notice
  • Absence without notice
  • Failure to work in accordance with Free Geek procedures
  • Failure to meet stated expectations, including those established as part of prior disciplinary process
  • Incompetence

Examples of Gross Misconduct

Listed below are examples of misconduct which may be considered to be Gross Misconduct and may warrant a Final Warning, Demotion or Dismissal. It is stressed that this list is not exhaustive and that a full and proper investigation must take place prior to issuing a Final Warning, Demotion or Dismissal.

  • Unauthorized possession or use of Free Geek property
  • Being unfit for duty due to intoxication
  • Breach of confidentiality procedures
  • Breach of data security procedures
  • Breach of network/physical security procedures
  • Physical assault
  • Verbal abuse
  • Willful damage of property
  • Incompetence or willful action that creates an unsafe working condition

The Written Record

A record of any counseling or disciplinary actions must be given to the employee, as well as maintained in their personnel file, in accordance with this policy, and with the [Personnel File Policy].

All aspects of the Discipline Procedure should be documented as part of the Written Record, including:

  • Investigations
  • Evidence and statements as part of an investigation
  • Recommendations for Demotion/Dismissal
  • Disciplinary Actions
  • Appeals
  • Results of Appeals

An employee shall be furnished with all items of the Written Record at the time they are entered into their personnel file, unless explicitly exempted by the [Personnel File Policy].

(some aspects of investigations may be deemed confidential, such as grievances, testimony, etc. [Personnel File Policy] will clarify these specifics, based on established best practices, tbd)

The written record shall also contain relevant information to ensure the employee is aware of options and rights available to them, including:

  • specific steps to appeal
  • terms of expiry
  • possible consequences of non-compliance
  • how to find additional information/resources

Line Manager/DPP Responsibilities

All Department Point People shall have certain Line Manager responsibilities in order to successfully carry out disciplinary measures within their departments. These include:

  • Provide counseling to workers in department
  • Ensure workers in their department are adequately supervised
  • Resolve disputes
  • Start investigations
  • Put someone on paid administrative leave for up to 5 business days
  • Issue verbal warnings
  • Issue written warnings (with oversight of DPPs)
  • Issue final written warning (with oversight of DPPs)
  • Recommend demotion/firing

Staff Vacation Policies

  1. REDIRECT Out of Date Staff Paid Time Off Policy

Staff Collective Meeting Ground Rules

The Free Geek Collective ceased to exist on February 28, 2013. For information on current staff, please go to Staff. For detailed information about the re-organization of Free Geek's management structure, please go to 2013_Restructuring_Documents.

Staff Collective Ground Rules for Meetings: This is an attempt to have more constructive meetings and to alleviate what people may perceive as a toxic or hostile workplace.
List of Policies - Policy Development

These ground rules were adopted at an all-day Staff Collective Meeting on Nov 1, 2010. (link to minutes forthcoming)

These ground rules apply to staff collective meetings, but could be used for other meetings as well.

Ground rules for Staff Collective Meetings:

These ground rules apply to staff collective meetings. It is the role of the facilitator to enforce these ground rules. If the facilitator is not doing this, someone else may suggest.

The following behaviors are usually counterproductive to having a reasonable meeting and should be avoided:

  • eye rolling
  • laughing at serious points or concerns
  • hair pulling
  • making things unnecessarily personal
  • interrupting (guidelines for when interrupting is acceptable are below)
    • to correct a fallacy
    • to ask clarifying questions
  • monopolizing speaking time
  • raising voices to a yell or near-yell
  • hyperbole
  • assuming bad intent
  • attacking or insulting
  • talking about "ghosts"


This section is only intended to clarify the above ground rules, and is not part of the official decision made.

In making a point, try to stick to the actual facts. Try not to inflate an opponent's argument into a mis-characterization of their point of view. In other words "Back it up, or back it off."
Often points will be introduced with a phrase like "people say...". When doing this, be certain to have concrete people and events in mind. Avoid expressing your own opinions as if they were the opinions of other unnamed people.
good facilitation
A good facilitator should identify when the above (or similar) behaviors are negatively affecting a meeting and point out the problem. In some cases the facilitator will not notice the behaviors and others present at the meeting will need to raise the issue.

Staff Collective Decision Making Process

The Free Geek Collective ceased to exist on February 28, 2013. For information on current staff, please go to Staff. For detailed information about the re-organization of Free Geek's management structure, please go to 2013_Restructuring_Documents.

Staff Collective Decision Making Process: Too often there is a lack of clear decision making (both internal and external to the group) or the inability to reach a decision in a timely manner. This is an effort for the staff collective to address this problem.
List of Policies - Policy Development

This policy was agreed on at a special all-day Monday staff collective meeting on Nov 1, 2010. Minor adjustments in wording were suggested to address concerns and they were approved at the staff collective meeting on November 5, 2010. (link to minutes forthcoming)

Policy decisions made by the Free Geek staff collective are made using the formal consensus process as outlined in "On Conflict and Consensus" except when contradicted by this procedure.

  1. An informal consensus process may be used as long as ...
    • the text of the decision is recorded in the official minutes of the group making the decision, along with a context statement and the text of any concerns raised, and
    • any member of the group making the decision has an opportunity to force the decision to be made using the formal consensus process.
  2. Proposals for formal consensus decisions must be drafted, preferably in advance of any meeting.
  3. Proposals for formal consensus decisions must include a context statement describing the problem being addressed.
  4. Proposals for formal consensus decisions must include a reasonable deadline for deciding, allowing time for discussion and taking into account any external deadlines, etc.
  5. If a proposal for a formal consensus decision has not been decided upon at its deadline, a formal call for consensus must be made along with a statement of any outstanding concerns, including any potential blocks to the decision, and an attempt to resolve the concerns must be made in good faith by all participants in the decision:
    • A potential block must be based on a valid concern.
    • A valid concern is one rooted in one or more of the following:
      1. An inability of the organization to function,
      2. An inability of a worker to effectively perform their job,
      3. A violation of an organizational principle, a law, or an agreed upon code of ethics.
    • The group (minus the person raising the potential block) determines if the concern on which the potential block is based is valid according to the above stated criteria or not.
    • If the concern is deemed invalid, the block is removed and that concern is treated as a stand-aside concern rather than a valid block.
    • If the concern is deemed valid, the block stands, but outside facilitation must be pursued to address the concern.

Technical notes on adding policies to the handbook

We can include all relevant pages in a single document without duplication using the following syntax:

=Staff Discipline Policy=
{{:Staff Discipline Policy}}

Most if not all included pages are Policy pages. The Policy pages should all have a simular format. If a page you are including is not a policy page, then see if you can format it in a simular way.