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Remember these items when drafting employee handbooks

Employers can draft and utilize a well-drafted handbook to avoid lawsuits and pursue their business mission. But, too often, these documents remain unchanged for a long time and any errors or ambiguities can cause problems long after these documents are drafted.

Relevance

An employee handbook can help prevent employment law problems. But using boilerplate language from a form or online source will not address how a particular business conducts its business and its culture. Handbooks may incorporate some relevant examples but should be tailored for a particular business.

Handbooks should include, and be revised as appropriate, to include the company’s policies and relevant laws or regulations. Employees must have one source of information. They should not have to compile and review numerous emails or bulletin postings.

Drafting also needs to be concise so the handbook is user-friendly. Avoid legalese, passive voice, and extensive detail.

Disclaimers

Employee handbooks need to contain a disclaimer that its contents do not create an employment contract or changes to the at-will employment relationship. It should omit 90-day probationary language for at-will employees.

Add a disclaimer that the handbook cannot address every situation that arises so that the employer has flexibility with addressing unique or unforeseen situations.

Social media policies

Employers cannot impose a blanket policy prohibiting negative posts about their company. Total prohibition could violate section 7 of the National Relations Act. Employees also have the right to discuss wages and other workplace issues with their co-workers without suffering reprisal.

Employers may suggest that employees add a disclaimer to their posits that their opinions are their own and do not represent their employer.

Discipline

Handbooks should describe conduct that may lead to discipline and the potential penalties that may be imposed. The handbook must also clearly set forth an anti-harassment policy and what employees should do if they are harassed.

Companies should not adopt an inflexible step discipline policy. Handbooks need to have a disclaimer that companies may omit disciplinary steps depending on the severity of the infraction or harassment.

Use

Managers and supervisors need regular training on handbook policies, so they are implemented correctly. They should also regularly review policies to assure their consistent application.

 

Inconsistent application can harm morale, excuse employees from compliance and make the handbook irrelevant. Employees may claim discrimination if there is different discipline for the same infraction.

 

Attorneys can assist employers draft handbooks that meets their needs and avoids lawsuits. They can also assure that it addresses current laws.