Draft a Rock Solid Employee Handbook

Employee handbooks can protect employers and employees. However they are often poorly-developed or outdated; which can lead to legal issues, lawsuits and fines.

The number one rule when drafting an employee handbook, is to tailor it specifically to your organization. If the handbook is not tailored to meet your organizations needs and specific legal requirements, it will become a legal liability.

“Borrowing, googling, or Frankensteining it will result in a disaster; it is never a good idea. You may also be violating Copyright laws,” said Ginny Cronin, attorney at Henningson and Snoxell.

Here are three starting steps to take when drafting an Employee Handbook:

  • The first step in drafting a new employee handbook or manual is to think about the logistics of your organization: the size of organization, number of employees, whether they are full-time, part-time, or independent contractors.
    • Verify the size of your workforce. It is your organization’s duty to comply with various federal, state, and local employment laws depends on the number of employees
    • Confirm whether the employee handbook will be distributed to employees in a single state or multiple states. This impacts whether the handbook must comply with one state’s law, or meet requirements in multiple jurisdictions.
    • Identify the states and cities where employees work, which may differ from the physical location of the employer’s offices or headquarters. Assess the geographic locations of all employees, including any employees who work remotely, to determine which state and local laws apply. Many cities have local ordinances or laws that impose additional requirements.
  • Next, identify the nature of your organization. Is it a church, religious organization, non-profit, have tax-exemption status?
    • “What is the related documentation to prove the religious nature of your organization? This information helps determine if there are specific policies relating to religious freedom that may be important to include in the employee handbook,” said Cronin.

Documentation may include:

    • Articles of Incorporation
    • Bylaws
    • Statement of Faith, Code of Conduct, Core Values
    • Denominational documents
  • Pick the right tone. Use professional, yet plain language that reflects the culture of the organization. Ideally, the employee handbook describes the desired conduct of employees, rather than the promised conduct of the management.

“Borrowing, googling, or Frankensteining it will result in a disaster; it is never a good idea. You may also be violating Copyright laws,” said Ginny Cronin, attorney at Henningson and Snoxell

“Avoid overly rigid policies and procedures, particularly with disciplinary rules. And avoid too much detail.  This allows for employer discretion,” said Cronin.

In order to prevent the handbook from being used as a contract between employer and employee, always including a disclaimer which makes clear the employee handbook is:

  • Not intended to be the basis for a contract of employment
  • Only a statement of organizational policy
  • Policies in the handbook are guidelines only;
  • The employer has the right to modify or delete policies in the handbook without notice; and
  • The employment relationship is at-will.

For more information on drafting your employee handbook:

Virginia (Ginny) Cronin
Attorney – Henningson and Snoxell
vcronin@hennsnoxlaw.com
www.hennsnoxlaw.com


June 19, 2019
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