Common employee handbook mistakes

You’ve done the right thing by developing and distributing an employee handbook.  But don’t be too quick to pat yourself on the back. If you are like most businesses there may be some things in there that need tweaking.

Speaking at a recent NationLease meeting, Jason Banuski, president of HR One, shared his thoughts on where there is room for improvement when it comes to writing and updating this valuable document.

Here is Banuski’s list of the Top 10 areas businesses should pay attention to:

1.Equal employment opportunity policies: Equal employment opportunity laws prevent discrimination covering a wide range of things. The types of groups that are protected changes and you need to make sure that you keep up-to-date on any new groups that are a legally protected class or have legally protected status.

2.Off-duty conduct provisions: The National Labor Relations Act protects the rights of employees to act together to address conditions at work, with or without a union. This protection extends to certain work-related conversations conducted on social media, such as Facebook and Twitter. The law says you can’t prohibit employees from communicating on social media. However you can set policies that govern social media use as it relates to your business. Make sure the policies are not too broad.

3.Unemployment insurance eligibility: Your policies must comply with your state’s requirements for time worked or wages earned. Remember the employee seeking unemployment benefits must be out of work through no fault of his/her own and must be actively seeking work.

4.Employment separation policies: Your policies should cover verbal warnings, written warnings, suspension and termination. Stay away from the “three strikes and you’re out” mentality when it comes to setting disciplinary and separation policies.

5.Anti-harassment policies: The Supreme Court has held that sexual harassment is a form of illegal sex discrimination that involves unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and/or other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature. Also be aware of the concept of a hostile work environment.

6.Employee handbook: Two good reasons to update the employee handbook are compliance changes and organizational changes.

7.Orientation period: Clearly lay out the policies for an employee’s orientation period. Consider holding back eligibility for benefits until the new hire completes 90 days of work.

8.Substance testing policies: There are several places where testing for illegal substances can occur. Those include prior to hiring, randomly, if you have a reasonable suspicion, following an accident, or upon return to work.

9.Leave of absence policies: Make sure you understand the difference between FMLA and non-FMLA medical leave. You should provide specific steps for taking leave and make sure the employee knows the consequences of failure to follow the steps. You also need to be aware of the Americans with Disabilities Act and the concept of reasonable accommodation.

10.Exempt vs. non-exempt employees: There is confusion around what is meant by exempt and non-exempt employees. Make sure you understand the difference.

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