Employee handbooks can be an extremely useful tool for employers, regardless of size. A well-drafted handbook clearly defines and communicates an employer’s standards to its workforce. No employer can address every single policy during new employee orientation, so a handbook is a convenient tool for disseminating this information, and further serves as a reference for employees. A handbook may help prevent lawsuits or provide a potential defense by including provisions required by law, providing notice of workplace rules, or establishing a reporting mechanism for harassment or discrimination.
While handbooks can be useful and beneficial to employers, risks exist if not drafted and disseminated correctly. A poorly drafted handbook may include policies that are incomplete, conflicting or inconsistent, over drafted, or not tailored to the specific employer; these problems can frustrate employees and impact litigation. A handbook that contains unlawful provisions, for example prohibiting employees from discussing wages or automatically terminating an employee who does not return from Family and Medical Leave, can also expose an employer to claims. Other risks involved with handbooks include using non-discretionary language that limits an employer’s options and failing to uniformly apply the provisions to all employees. Using an employment law attorney to draft a handbook or revise a handbook currently in place can help eliminate these problems.
Once a handbook is in place, do not stop there. Like a vehicle, a handbook needs regular “tune-ups.” Periodically reviewing the handbook ensures it remains compliant with current law and addresses any changes which may be necessary as a result of the changing business environment. A handbook that has not been revised in years may not reflect the company’s current practices. In addition, an outdated handbook will not address current issues such as social media use, texting, or e-cigarettes. A properly drafted and frequently updated handbook will provide benefits to employers while reducing potential risks.
The above is a brief overview regarding handbooks. For assistance in drafting or revising a handbook, please contact our firm.