Employee Handbooks: do’s and dont’s

I’ve found myself reviewing a number of employee handbooks for employers lately.  Some are great, and others not so much.  When it comes to creating or revising a handbook, keep these few basic tips in mind:

  • DO emphasize, right from the get-go, that employment is at-will and nothing in the handbook changes that.
  • DO make sure you’ve got the latest legalese.  Employment laws change a lot, and new policies have to be crafted to keep up.  For example, does your anti-discrimination policy contain list “genetic information” as a protected characteristic?  It should, thanks to GINA.  Is your social media policy in keeping with the latest NLRB rulings?
  • DO provide yourself with the utmost leeway to deal with employment situations that arise.  Avoid rigid, step-by-step disciplinary policies that could diminish your latitude.
  • DON’T make promises you can’t or won’t keep.  For example, don’t say performance reviews are conducted twice a year if they are really not.
  • DON’T forget to include a detailed and specific complaint procedure when it comes to issues of harassment and/or discrimination.  The courts insist.
As a general rule, handbooks should be reviewed annually to make sure they are up to legal snuff.