If you are an employer, a well written, carefully prepared employee handbook is a must. It establishes your legal rights as well as helps protect those rights. It explains how employers want employees treated and how employees are expected to behave.
So when was the last time you looked at yours?
State and federal laws as well as technology are changing at a pace that is almost blinding. And these rapid changes are altering your rights as an employer.
Here is a list of reasons employee handbooks should be reviewed annually:
- Social media. Virtually every employer is grappling with how to handle employee social media use in the workplace and during personal time. What rules have you made – and do they meet the new requirements of the National Labor Relations Board?
- Reasonable accommodations. Employers may need to provide reasonable accommodations to employees who may qualify for the same under certain circumstances – including for religious beliefs, health matters and pregnancy. Do you know what process is required to invite such requests and to properly respond to the same?
- Wages and payroll. This area is fraught with land mines for employers. Some of your employees probably qualify for overtime pay. Have you made it clear how overtime is to be handled? And did you know the federal Department of Labor is expected to change the rules soon pertaining to overtime and mid-level, previously exempt, salaried employees?
- Drug laws and drug policies. This area of law is changing dramatically and varies state-to-state. In Connecticut, unless otherwise required by federal law or required to obtain federal funding, employers may not refuse to hire an applicant or discharge, penalize or threaten an employee solely on due to such person’s status as qualified to use medicinal marijuana, but an employer may terminate or discipline an employee who reports to work impaired on account of his/her medical marijuana use. Does your employee handbook address this issue as well as your policy with respect to drug use and testing in general?
- It used to be simple to manage tobacco usage in the workplace. But how do you now handle e-cigarettes? You need to address these questions clearly in your employee handbooks.
- The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission probably hears more cases on this topic annually than virtually any other. What is your policy on retaliation claims and the confidentiality protection for those that bring such claims?
- LGBT Rights. In a historic decision in 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court mandated that all states must permit and recognize same sex marriages. As an employer, you are now required to offer the same benefits to same sex couples that you do for other wedded employees. Discrimination rules have also changed – effecting how employers handle transgender individuals and others from the LGBT community.
- Family Leave. Is your plan crystal clear on how you handle leave and are you aware of certain provisions in the Americans with Disabilities Act that may afford employees a medical leave of absence as a reasonable accommodation, even if your company is not covered by the federal or state Family and Medical Leave Acts? Have you spelled out your policies clearly to your employees?
Employee Handbooks are vital documents in any business. They not only protect the rights of all parties – but written well, they can express a lot about the culture of your company and as a result, serve as a recruitment tool for new employees.
If you are an employer in Connecticut and need assistance crafting an employee handbook or want someone to carefully review an existing handbook, contact the attorneys at Kainen, Escalera & McHale. Each of us have over 20 years of experience in all aspects of employment and labor law and can help you with this complicated topic. Please contact us if we can help you.
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