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An employee handbook is important for all businesses; big or small. A handbook is a great way to introduce new employees to your company as well as promote a sense of fairness amongst the employees in your company. A well-written handbook can also help you defend against a wrongful termination lawsuit, if one should arise.
By providing an introduction to the business at the beginning you can help your employees feel welcome. A history of the workplace and it’s founders, the company culture, and the organizational structure of the company are all great ways to start an employee off on the right foot and help them to feel like part of the team.
An employee handbook is also a useful place to list the policies you would like to enforce within your business. Be sure to state at the beginning that not every issue that may come up is addressed in the handbook and that other items will be dealt with on a case by case basis. You may also want to include that you reserve the right to change the handbook at anytime and for any reason. Also, make sure you do not using binding language in your handbook. If you make a statement with certainty within your handbook you must follow it with every employee!
Some policies that you may want to include are:
1. Employee benefits;
2. Drug and alcohol use;
4. Information regarding performance reviews;
6. Dress code;
8. Sick leave;
9. Internet usage;
10. Personal cell phone usage;
11. Overtime; and
Those are just a few of the many policies that you may have in your handbook. The point is to create uniformity within your company so that there is no confusion and so that employees are treated the same. This will help with wrongful termination lawsuits as well as help build a team environment.
Other more serious policies which are important to include in every handbook, address items such as harassment. All handbooks should have a statement that the company complies will federal and state anti-discrimination and equal employment opportunity laws (“EEO”), as well as the Family Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”).
With regard to harassment you should include examples and be very clear and firm with concern to what is not tolerated. There should be a detailed complaint process. The employees should have the option of complaining to more than one person in the instance that it is someone in human resources or their direct supervisor who is doing the harassing. The policy should make clear that in no instance will there be any sort of retaliation for making a complaint and give an assurance that complaints will be kept confidential to the extent possible.
You also need to ensure that the handbook is not taken as an employment contract with the addition of disclaimers.
Two disclaimers that are important to include within the handbook are:
1. That the handbook is not an employment contract; and
2. That the employee may be dismissed at the discretion of the company.
These disclaimers may help with a wrongful termination claim. It should be clear that this is “at-will” employment and that the employee may be fired at any time without notice for any lawful reason.
Once you have your handbook drafted you should provide it to all employees and have them sign a document stating that they have read and understand the handbook and then you should place it in the employees permanent file.
Please keep in mind that depending on the company there are several different ways to draft an employee handbook. I have included a few policies you may want and some more serious policies that you should have. Sexual, racial, and ethnic harassment are among the top complaints in companies today!
A well-written employee handbook is a great tool for many reasons!