An Employee Handbook is a critical communication tool that sets forth corporate goals, policies and objectives as well as the expectations demanded of employees. An effective Employee Handbook also ensures fair treatment for employees and, when drafted correctly, limits an employer’s exposure to liability. In this post, we address our top ten list of employment policies that should be contained in every Employee Handbook:
1) At-Will Employment Disclaimer: This disclaimer enforces that employment may be terminated by either the employer or employee at any time, without reason or notice. The disclaimer should also state that the Handbook is not a contract of employment, and that the policies can be changed at any time at the Company’s sole discretion.
2) Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO): An EEO policy confirms that the Company will provide fair and equal treatment to all employees in all the terms and conditions of employment without regard to the person’s race, color, sex, age, disability, religion, national origin, veteran status and/or any other status protected by applicable federal, state or local laws.
3) Prohibited Harassment and Discrimination: This policy should prohibit discrimination, harassment and retaliation in the workplace based on a person’s race, color, religion, national origin, sex, age, disability, veteran status or any other classification protected by federal, state or local law. The policy should also contain multiple avenues of complaint if the employee believes her or she is the victim of harassment, discrimination or retaliation.
4) Retaliation: A separate retaliation policy is strongly recommended and should prohibit any adverse conduct against an employee who reports alleged improper or wrongful activity. Such a policy should encourage employees to report impropriety and wrongful activity in good faith.
5) FMLA: If your Company employs 50 or more employees, you are required to comply with the Federal Family and Medical Leave Act which allows eligible employees 12 weeks of unpaid leave each leave year. The FMLA requires that your Handbook contain an FMLA policy.
6) Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act (ADAAA): An ADAAA policy prohibits discrimination against any qualified employee or job applicant with respect to any terms, privileges, or conditions of employment because of a person’s physical or mental disability, as defined by the statute. The ADAAA requires employers to accommodate disabilities, and also requires employees to seek accommodations and to engage with the employer in a process to find reasonable accommodations.
7) Discipline: Having a well-defined discipline policy will provide employees with clear guidance regarding their workplace behavior. It is important that personnel actions be well-documented.
8) Monitoring Electronic Communications: With the prevalent use of workplace computer systems, employers should reserve the right to review and monitor all information that passes through their computer systems. This policy should remind employees that there is no expectation of privacy in any communication—whether business related or personal—performed using company equipment.
9) Alcohol and Drugs: A drug and alcohol policy is important to protect the safety, health, security and well-being of your employees and customers.
10) Confidentiality: A confidentiality policy will acknowledge that employees have access to confidential and proprietary information, require employees to keep this information confidential during employment, and after termination, and provide guidelines for the handling of such information.
This list is not intended to be exhaustive. All employment policies should be reviewed regularly with experienced legal counsel to determine whether revisions are required.