Does your business need an employee handbook? For all but the
smallest employers, the simple answer is "yes."
Employee handbooks provide consistent information to employees,
address frequently asked questions, set the workplace tone and help
defend or prevent litigation.
Crafting a thoughtful handbook can save employers a great deal
of time, trouble and expense down the line. It also forces an
employer to clarify its policies and provides concrete expectations
and procedures for which the employer can hold employees
Some helpful items to include are:
A disclaimer clearly stating that the handbook is not an
employment contract and that the employer reserves the right to
change it at any time
An acknowledgment for the employee to sign and date (you should
keep a signed copy in the employee's personnel file)
Instructions on who to contact and how to do so if an issue
arises on the job
Paid and unpaid employee leave policies, addressing common
reasons (maternity, parental, illness, injury, military)
Information regarding how an employee can initiate a request
for a workplace accommodation (employers are expected to recognize
accommodation requests for religious beliefs and disabilities)
An explanation of disciplinary policies, harassment reporting
procedures, behavioral expectations, benefits summaries and
corporate missions, goals and values
There are also three emerging issues to consider whether you are
preparing your first or your 50th employee handbook. These are:
1. Gender identity: Review personal appearance,
anti-discrimination and anti-harassment policies to be certain that
they comply with new protections for gender identity. In many
states, courts have recently recognized that discrimination against
an employee for being transgender is a form of gender-stereotyping
2. Monitoring movement: In the age of GPS
tracking, employers should inform employees if their movements are
(or could be) subject to monitoring to remove any expectation of
privacy, which is the foundation of most claims regarding invasion
of privacy. Remind employees that their email, Internet searches
and other forms of communication are also subject to
3. Social networking: Social networking sites
and other new media platforms increase the likelihood that the
public, clients and competitors will see an individual's
comments. While it may be tempting to simply ban posting about
work, the National Labor Relations Board believes that comments
about the terms and conditions of employment are protected speech.
Focus your policy on restricting speech critical of individuals,
including defamatory comments or revealing trade secrets.
Well-drafted employee handbooks facilitate communication between
employers and employees, and set the stage for a healthy work
environment. They can also be incredibly helpful when defending
workplace litigation. Like any corporate policy, however, the key
to success is to keep it concise, current and consistent with
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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A female employee traveling for her employer met a "friend" and at her motel room with him became "injured whilst engaging in sexual intercourse when a glass light fitting above the bed was pulled from its mount and fell on her."