Employee Handbook Must-Have's
An employee handbook is a living breathing document. You cannot just create a handbook and then file it and forget about it. You should be conducting an annual audit to see what, if any, new laws have been passed including federal, state and local laws that may either require revision of some of your current policies and/o drafting of new policies that you may not yet have.
What are some of the most important policies that are "must haves" in an employee handbook? Of course, at the top of the list is an Anti-Harassment Policy. This policy is important because under two important 1998 Supreme Court decisions, Farragher and Ellerth, the Supreme Court held that having an Anti-Harassment Policy is the first step in establishing an affirmative defense in a sexual or unlawful harassment case.
Equally important if you have 50 or more employees would be an FMLA policy. If an employer has an employee handbook, they are required to include an FMLA policy in that handbook. There are also many important rights that an employer has if they include such provisions in their FMLA policy.
For instance, the employer has the right and can designate in their policy the method they wish to use for counting an employee’s 12-month period. Since there is only one of the four possible methods that is advantageous to an employer, it is important for the employer to set this forth in its FMLA policy.
In addition, the employer also has the right to deny an employee’s use of intermittent or reduced-schedule leave after the birth or placement for adoption or foster-care of a child. This is an important provision that an employer should include in its employee handbook. Perhaps the most important provision that an employer should include in its FMLA policy, is that any unpaid FMLA leave will run concurrently with any other applicable paid leave.
This prevents the situation in which an employee takes all of their short-term disability leave and then has the right to stay out an additional 12-weeks for FMLA leave. So having an FMLA policy is an important step for employers to take to protect their organizations from liability and to properly assert their rights under the law.
Some other policies that have become important recently as a result of the advances in technology are a Social Media and Blogging Policy, a Cell Phone and Texting Policy and an Information Systems Security Policy. Why are these policies important?
A Cell Phone/Texting Policy is important because injured parties tend to look to the party with the deep pockets to get reimbursement for their injuries. If the injuries are caused by an employee acting within the scope of their employment at the time of the accident then the injured party can seek to hold the employer liable for their injuries. Having a Cell Phone/Texting Policy in place can help an employer protect its organization in such cases.
What about a Social Media and Blogging Policy? These types of policies have become increasingly important and are definitely one of the most important new policies that an employer will want to add to their handbook. They provide significant information for employees on what they can and cannot do when posting blogs or engaging in other actions on social media sites.
These policies can help employers avoid damaging situations that their employees can cause by, for instance, posting negative things about other employees on social media sites, divulging the employer’s confidential and/or proprietary information on social media sites and avoiding liability for an employee’s breach of another employee’s privacy rights.
Another policy that an employer cannot do without is an Information Systems Security Policy. This will advise employees that the employer has the right and will be monitoring any and all communications that they make through the employer’s server including e-mails and instant messages. It will also serve to eliminate any expectation of privacy that the employee might have regarding communications that they make on the employer’s servers.
An employee handbook is an important tool that employers can and should use to protect their organizations from liability. Employee Handbooks also provide valuable information to employees on their rights and benefits as well as their employer’s expectations.