LITIGATION VALUE: Nominal
An employer can do many things to assist employees in coping with grief, but requiring them to attend a bird funeral in the parking lot is not one of them. Also, as a general rule, regional managers shouldn’t be soft shoulders for their subordinates. Certainly, they shouldn’t have a meeting asking employees to disclose their personal struggles in losing a loved one.
Also, just in case you were wondering, it is never an appropriate workplace discussion to speculate about the amount of blood that may have been involved in a former colleague’s fatal car accident. It’s just not.
Companies should (and most do) have policies and procedures for helping their employees cope with grief. Believe it or not, employers aren’t required by any state or federal law to provide bereavement leave, but almost all companies do so anyway. Some companies even allow employees to donate paid time off to a coworker in need. And almost every employer will send flowers or a thoughtful card. That being said, it is important to have some guiding principles to ensure that employees are treated consistently and fairly. Nothing would be worse than having one employee receive six months of casseroles while another receives only one card. It’s not only insensitive but could be used as evidence of disparate treatment on the basis of some protected category.