An employee handbook is an important communication tool between an employer and their employees. Every employer, no matter the size, should consider implementing an employee handbook. A thorough and well written handbook sets forth the employer’s expectations and describes what an employee can expect from their employer. It should also address any legal obligations the employer must comply with as well as a policy for reporting employee complaints. An effective employee handbook should address topics such as the employer’s leave policy, holiday schedule, at-will employment status, technology usage, work hours, dress code, disciplinary policies, performance reviews, standards of conduct and any other topic the employer deems important.
Not only is an employee handbook a good communication tool, it also serves a beneficial defense mechanism for the employer. Distributing an employee handbook and implementing a system for documenting receipt of the handbook is a method for an employer to reduce potential liability in employment claims. No handbook can guarantee and employer won’t be sued but when a handbook is well drafted and enforced uniformly, it can serve as an extra layer of protection for the employer against potential employment claims.
Just as no two businesses are exactly alike, no two handbooks should be identical. A handbook should have enough detail to articulate the responsibilities of the employer and its employees but not become overly complicated. The length and depth of the handbook will depend largely on the employer. I highly recommend retaining an attorney to carefully draft an employee handbook that is individually tailored to the needs of the employer.
As an employer you may be asking yourself why you would pay an attorney when you could just handle this yourself. Seemingly innocuous language can run afoul of federal and state statutes such as the Fair Labor Standards Act, Americans with Disabilities Act, the Family Medical Leave Act, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, state and federal whistle blower laws, the National Labor Relations Act, and many other laws. It is important for you as an employer to protect your business with a carefully drafted handbook.
Employers and the law are constantly changing and implementing an employee handbook is not a “one and done” deal. Existing employee handbooks should be reviewed periodically by an attorney for continued compliance with applicable federal and state laws as well as other possible pitfalls. When making changes it is important to have a procedure for documenting your employee’s receipt of the changes just as you would the first time the handbook was distributed.
At Rice & Rose Law Firm we offer comprehensive legal services including drafting a handbook for employers without one currently in place. We are also able to tailor specific receipt forms customized to your business. We can review a handbook currently in place as well as policies for documenting receipt of the handbook. If you are an employer I highly advise you to meet with an attorney to either implement or review your employee handbook and the distribution policies associated with it.