Every employer who has ever faced the seemingly daunting task of preparing an employee handbook or updating existing policies knows how overwhelming the process may seem. From ensuring the policies are exhaustive to analyzing whether they comply with the law in your state, the task may seem like a big project. Handbook and policy compliance is an essential aspect of doing business because, should the employer face a lawsuit where its policies are at issue, the handbook may be used as favorable evidence to argue the company's compliance with the law. Furthermore, handbooks and policies guide our leaders to comply with applicable law. Below are some tips for employers when reviewing their policies and procedures:
- Mirror Language from Prevailing Law. A good practice when preparing written policies is to review the applicable law and mirror that language. There are other great resources to review, including applicable wage orders, administrative laws, and your state's applicable governing agency. Using language from the prevailing law in your state will be key.
- Use Headings and a Table of Contents. Having these organizational elements in your handbook is helpful not just when the employer faces litigation and must quickly search for applicable policy, but also for the employer's day-to-day business when needing to easily refer to policy. It benefits everyone to make your handbook easy to use.
- Include an Introduction. While the employer may find itself revisiting the handbook when there is active litigation, it is important to keep in mind that the handbook is primarily created for the employee to reference the rules and policies governing the organization. Accordingly, an introduction that outlines the purpose of the handbook, its contents, and company resources, such as contact information for the HR Department or hours of operation, are useful tools for the employee should he or she need such information. A proper introduction may also be an asset in the event of litigation.
- Train Your Supervisors on Applicable Policies. There will be times when the handbook contains impeccable policies, but the supervisors may not be aware of all policies that apply to their employees. Providing proper and regular training to supervisors on the policies in your handbook will go a long way to ensuring proper enforcement of the policies.
- Remember That Length Does Not Translate to Compliance. The best practice is to ensure the substance and letter of the law is incorporated into the handbook, even if that can be accomplished in a couple of sentences per category/heading. By the same token, the more exhaustive the handbook, the more evidence of compliance with the law the employer has.
- Update as Necessary. A good practice is to have your legal counsel regularly review the policies and update them as necessary. Doing so ensures the employer stays current with the law and takes all necessary precautions to avoid liability and potential damages.
Most importantly: Do Not Be Afraid to Ask for Help. If you have a question or concern about a current policy, perhaps because the policy has been brought to the forefront due to a current employee issue, or you are thinking about potentially revising the policy due to a change in law or some other concern, do not hesitate to reach out to a labor & employment attorney to get the necessary counsel before doing so. Even if there is no pending litigation, using an attorney as a resource to ensure compliance is always good practice. A simple question may go a long way in preventing a host of potential issues in the future. Do not be afraid to ask.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.