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The Gavel

   Diverse Viewpoints in the Law
March 2013
Volume 4
Ramina Dehkhoda-Steele
                                             Deborah Cochran

Considerations for New and Revised
Company Handbook Policies:

By: Ramina Dehkhoda-Steele and Deborah Cochran

There is no time like the present to update and evaluate your Company’s Employee Handbook.To start, it is important to keep in mind the Company’s specific goals and objectives when producing written work that will govern how its employees conduct themselves both inside and outside the workplace. In addition, authors of the Company Handbook should consider the kind of tone and content that its readers will ascertain when referring to it. For example, do you want the handbook to reflect an “Iron-Fist” regulatory tone or do you want it to demonstrate to your employees a greater willingness to enforce policies on an individualized basis?

Employee Handbooks should be a reflection of the current times. In doing so, the policies can be realistically applied to the challenges of today. This can be achieved by simply adding additional policies to address specific events of the past year or it could require a total overhaul of the Handbook. In either case, company policies will be better suited for the challenges faced by employers today and the handbook will not contain archaic regulations that are entirely unnecessary.

Some current policy updates to consider would be:

Paternity Leave: Today, women are not the only ones involved in raising children. In fact, because many women are being asked to rejoin the workforce shortly after having a child, fathers are needed more than ever. Consider including a father-friendly policy that would accommodate the family structure of the modern world.

Disability Accommodation: Many updates have been made since the original passing of the American Disabilities Act. Several of these updates have been identified by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, including the passing of the American Disabilities Amendment Act which broadens the scope of what the ADA considers to be a disability. As a general rule, all employee handbooks should reflect these updates as well.

Social Media: Social Media has become an important part of today’s society, including the use of said media at work and what an employee posts about their employer during their personal time. While efforts have been made by some companies to limit what their employees say about their employer on social media, it is important to keep in mind that
any company policies cannot impede on an employee’s Constitutional rights. Therefore, it is recommended that the policies be narrowly tailored to protect the company’s interest in not exposing confidential information or trade secrets.

Smart Devices: It is important that the employee handbook clearly define the rules for use of company and client data outside of the office through the use of the smart devices available. There should be specific rules regarding data integrity and security as well as password guidelines and requirements.

Workplace Violence: The growing epidemic of gun violence in the United States suggests that employers should update any existing workplace violence policies. Where employers do not already have a workplace violence policy enforced in their employee handbook, now is as good of a time as any to change that. Common workplace violence policies include instructions for a violence preparedness plan, security measure policies
and policies for reporting threats.

Complaints: Employers should have a clear policy for enforcing employee complaints. Whether it be a complaint that potentially results in litigation or just a minor dispute over who snagged someone’s lunch out of the Company refrigerator, employees should know exactly who they should be addressing these issues with and who will be their liaison for
pursuing resolution.

 Green Policy: Many companies have incorporated their green policy into their employee handbooks. Each employee must then comply with the green policy of the company to achieve the best results under that policy.

Healthy Living: Many employers are advocating for healthy life styles in their employment handbooks and policy. Some have put into place incentives for joining a health club or participating in local Marathons.

It is a good idea to review your existing handbooks, policies and rules annually in order to make sure that they are current and comply with the employment laws of your jurisdiction.
Copyright © 2013 Wong Fleming, All rights reserved.
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