If you’re like me, you might be thinking “No one reads that handbook!” But for those that have taken the exhausting and pain staking task of writing the employee handbook, we *hope* that all employees take the time to read and understand the policies and procedures that are contained in that labor of love. It’s not just a protection for the employer to have a legally correct, up to date handbook. That protection is also for employees!
As state and federal laws change – the employee handbook should also be updated. Some policies to keep in mind as you’re going through your company handbook:
- Non-compete/Non-solicitation agreements: It’s important to understand your specific state law regarding non-compete clauses. It could be contained in your handbook, or a separate agreement, but needs to be examined. Certain states such as California, Florida, Hawaii, Illinoia, Massachusetts, Texas, Utah, Virginia, and Washington all have various laws regarding non-compete clauses. Make sure you understand and document your state law and how it pertains to your employees. It’s also important to notify your employees what the company and/or state laws are.
- FMLA, COBRA, Harassment, ADA, FLSA – basically all the legalese sections: From time to time, the Department of Labor updates their laws, forms, and poster notifications. States might have different minimum wage requirements. FMLA forms might be updated. COBRA rules might change. The best way (for me) to stay up to date on various regulations with employment law is to subscribe to email notifications from state/federal agencies, employment law attorneys, and SHRM.
- Behavioral expectations: Having a prohibited conduct section with behavior that isn’t tolerated in the workplace is a good way to have real life examples of what is/isn’t accepted in the workplace. Some examples of prohibited conduct might include: insubordination, disruptive or rude behavior, threats of violence, unsatisfactory job performance, defamation, inner office solicitation (think, MLM selling), sleeping on the job (unless allowed), theft, embezzlement, etc. Most of these are common sense practices, but they should always be documented in writing.
- Company policies on PTO and/or sick leave: Many states now have enacted laws that require companies to pay out PTO or vacation time upon termination, or have required paid sick leave. Those laws might be contrary to your individual company policy – so it’s important to make sure that your policies are in compliance with the law. It’s also necessary to nail down the specifics for such policies such as: going into the negative, negative balance upon termination, accrued PTO vs. allotted, paying out upon termination, rollover balances, and capped balances.
These are just a few areas that should be examined on a quarterly or bi-annual basis. Laws and rules change frequently with federal, state, and local laws. Having a good employment attorney review your handbook on an ongoing basis is a good practice to have as well. Remember, the employee handbook (and coordinating handbook acknowledgement form) is the first line of protection for your organization. It not only sets expectations at the beginning, but can also help identify missing pieces with regards to compliance. Let us help you examine your handbook today. Contact us today for a free consultation call.