When was the last time you up-dated your Employee Handbook? Not only are state, federal and local laws changing rapidly, so too is the technology shaping how people work today. It’s essential for employers to be pro-active and stay ahead of changes while allowing employees controlled freedom to do their job. Finding this balance can be difficult. If you regularly review and revise existing policies/procedures and freshen up your Employee Handbook it will define employee expectations and desired behavior.
The Employee Handbook is a living document that sets the tone and foundation for the Company. A Handbook lays out employee/employer expectations but also defines the Company mission, values and culture. The Handbook is the first document provided to a new hire and can serve as a tool to attract, engage and even retain top talent. If you haven’t given your Handbook the attention it needs, 2017 is the time to get a “jump start”.
I have my handbook reviewed by legal counsel annually to ensure HR On-Call, LLC is providing its clients with the latest and greatest information. I wanted to share with you a snapshot of some of the top areas that I’ve up-dated in 2016. This list is not all inclusive….
Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) & Protected Classifications
Protected classes include women who are pregnant and judging others based on genetic information. These should be added to your list of protected classifications. Given the controversy and emotion over lesbian, gays, bisexual and transgender issues, employers should use their Handbooks to express their intention to treat all employees equally and fairly, regardless of their marital status, sexual orientation or sexual identity.
National Labor Relations Board (NLRB)
The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has made it clear that companies must protect their employees’ free speech rights. These rights extend not only to watercooler conversations but also to discussions on social media about pay and working conditions. You can still state in your Handbook that employees are prohibited from revealing confidential business information, such as data on vendors and customers, but the text should avoid any language that could be interpreted as infringing on speech and actions that the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) protects.
Social Media and Data Privacy
Many people today perform work-related tasks on personal smartphones and tablets. They conduct personal business and participate in social media on these devices as well. Handbooks must make it clear that employees have no right of privacy while accessing social media at work or on company-owned equipment. In situations where a personal phone is used for work, and this person leaves the company, his or her devices can be wiped clean of the employer’s data.
Employees are entitled to reasonable accommodations under certain circumstances, such as for physical and mental health conditions. Employers should spell out in their Handbooks not only the legal bases for accommodations but also the company’s intention to comply with them when reasonable. The employee must communicate their needs and the Company must respond accordingly.
Many handbooks say the organization will not tolerate retaliation, which in recent years has been the most common charge brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The Handbook should state that the employer cannot promise confidentiality for people who make retaliation complaints. Instead, it can say that their identities will be revealed only on a need-to-know basis. The process must be fair for both the person making the retaliation claim and the individual who is being accused.
Leave of Absence
Employers must be careful how they treat a worker who is not eligible for leave under the Federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). He or she might still be eligible for leave under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Your Handbook should note that a person might qualify for leave under the ADA as a reasonable accommodation.
Substance Abuse & Smoking
Iowa Code law had some up-dates regarding drug testing procedures. The use of e-cigarettes has become more common and Handbooks should mention e-cigarettes and treat them like any other tobacco product.
In every Handbook make sure you have a disclaimer that states that the Employee Handbook is not an employment contract. You want to specify that the document can and will change as necessary and dictated by law. Your Handbook should not box you in or restrict you from making decisions rather help you guide and manage the behavior of employees. Managers who allow too much freedom or make assumptions are the ones who can get in the most trouble. Think twice about being nice!! Review and revise your rules! Be compliant in 2017! If you would like HR On-Call, LLC to review your Employee Handbook, contact Susan Arnold@ 515-401-2233.
A little more about us:
Susan Arnold, owner and lead HR Consultant at HR On-Call, LLC. Susan has 20+ years of HR experience and provides a HR presence to business organizations without the overhead expense of a full-time employee. Susan helps business owners improve employer/employee relationships and allows them to focus on their business while resting assured that they are in full compliance with state and federal law.
Areas of expertise:
- Reduce Employer Risk and Liability
- Customized Employee Handbooks
- Performance Reviews
- Improve Employee/Employer Relationships
- Background Checks
- Personality Assessments
- Guaranteed EEO Compliance
- Employee Retention
- Recruitment / Hiring
- Employee Discipline/Discharge
Susan is passionate about her customers and listens to their needs. If you are interested in any of the details above or would like more information about her services, please contact Susan!