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Employment Handbook

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Do you employ people in the modern era?

The civil rights movement gave way to legislation and rules that protect people from discrimination based on race, religion, age, disability, or gender.

Fortunately, companies sought to achieve greater compliance and employee communication as a result. The employment handbook is an excellent solution for ensuring that you accomplish your human resources objectives.

After all, your employees are by far the most important resource you have.

Before typing up an employment agreement, familiarize yourself with the process. The informative article below addresses everything you need to know.

What is an Employment Handbook?

Employment handbooks are a written code of conduct that informs employees about rules and company culture. They can also be used to supplement an employment contract between you and your non-exempt talent. An employment handbook is a right choice when you hire and retain employees.

Purpose of Employment Handbooks

Employment handbooks serve to establish the rules and guidelines that employees must follow when working for your company. It can also help them understand what will happen if they violate any of these guidelines as well. A thorough, straightforward employment handbook can help you communicate these terms clearly.

The main purpose of employments handbooks includes:

  1. Communicate expectations and guidelines to employees
  2. Protect employee’s federally protected rights
  3. Reduce the number of human resources inquiries made
  4. Encourage compliance among managerial staff members
  5. Offer a document that documents your company’s values
  6. Protect your rights as an employer

If you employ people, then you must draft, review, and distribute an employment handbook. However, you should familiarize yourself with the critical components so that you achieve the best possible result. Otherwise, you risk leaving out key provisions that make your document less powerful.

What’s Included in an Employment Handbook

Employment handbooks look different for every company. Some companies choose to use a shorter, less explanatory document, while others will specify as many details as possible. Each option has distinct advantages, meaning you should speak with employment lawyers to analyze your situation.

These are some sections that are often included in an employment handbook:

  • Section 1. Nondiscrimination policy
  • Section 2. Communication policy
  • Section 3. Compensation and benefits policy for new hires
  • Section 4. Separation policy
  • Section 5. Dress code provisions
  • Section 6. Code of ethics policy
  • Section 7. Workplace safety guidelines
  • Section 8. Attendance policy
  • Section 9. Acceptable use policy
  • Section 10. Employee termination policy

The sections that you choose to include will depend upon your company specifically. For instance, you may offer a work environment that doesn’t enforce a dress code, which would nullify the need to include it in your employment handbook. Deploy a tried and true legal process when it comes to creating your employment handbooks.

Click here to learn about a Code of Ethics.

How To Create an Employment Handbook

It can be overwhelming to tackle the project of creating an employment handbook. There are several details to remember, which means there’s a prime opportunity to inadvertently omit essential information. Following a step-by-step checklist will help.

Here’s how to create an employment handbook:

Step 1. Decide How You Want to Start

Many companies already have an existing employment handbook that they use. In this case, you have the opportunity to review and revise the current language and design, but you could also decide to start fresh. New companies will need to start their employment handbooks from scratch.

Step 2. Draft an Employment Handbook Outline

Based on the sections that you want to address in your employment handbook, start with an outline. Take each distinct section and break it down into smaller subsections.

You will also need to consider how laws affect employment relationships, including:

If you choose to not address these laws in your employment handbook, it could result in employee confusion or non-compliance issues. Ensure that you address them in your employment handbooks.

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Step 3. Summarize Your Policies

Your outline now serves as a basis by which you summarize each of your policies and procedures. Your employment handbook should use simple, straightforward language that doesn’t violate an employee’s civil rights. Take care to emphasize the most essential provisions through an intelligent design approach.

Ensure that you go into detail when it comes to employee rights and obligations, including:

  • Eligibility for benefits
  • Wage payments
  • Paid overtime rules
  • Paid time off (PTO) rules
  • Vacation pay rules
  • Dress code
  • Medical leave rules

Employees tend to refer to these rules more than others. By covering them comprehensively, you could effectively reduce the number of inquiries into your human resources department.

Step 4. Review Your Employment Handbook

Once you’ve drafted and summarized each section, your next step is compiling them into a single document. Incorporate any notes and changes as directed by crucial company leaders. Produce the first draft to share with your team for a final review, and take notes of any questions or additional changes.

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Step 5. Contact Employment Lawyers for a Final Review

Employment lawyers will review your employment handbook for enforceability and compliance. This step is critical, which means that you should not skip it. Keep in mind that disgruntled employees can use your employment handbook as evidence against you in a legal claim.

Your employment lawyers will take the time to determine what risk you are taking by leaving the document as-is and what improvements you can make to ensure that you remain protected. Always follow through on your lawyer’s recommendations based on statutory guidelines.

Step 6. Print or Publish Your Employment Handbook

After finalizing your employment handbook with employment lawyers, it is time to publish or print your employment handbook. Many companies today favor electronic delivery since it saves a tremendous amount of money on printing costs. In today’s world, a digital format makes the most sense, but it is also nice to receive a handbook if you can afford it.

Step 7. Distribute Employment Handbooks to Employees

The next step is to distribute the employment handbooks to your employees. Make an announcement about the distribution regarding where they can locate digital copies or receive physical ones. You should also post your employment handbooks on company intranets to which employees have routine access.

Step 8. Update As Needed

Get your managerial team on the same page when it comes to updating your employee handbooks. Consider an idea bank or repository where notes can be made and stored until it is time to update the employment handbook, as necessary. Following through on updates is essential to managerial participation in updating employment handbooks.

Getting Help with an Employment Handbook

Getting help with an employment handbook starts by working with experienced employment lawyers. Your employment handbook can be a blessing or a curse. Hire employment lawyers to ensure that they actually help your company save time and potentially money from future disputes.

Employment handbooks reflect the company’s internal values and can make or break employee engagement for new hires. Get them excited and geared up about working for your organization by clearly stating your purpose and letting employees know how they fit into the bigger picture of your business. Employment lawyers will protect your rights and help you achieve a favorable outcome.

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Keidi C.

Principal Attorney
Free Consultation
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Licensed in MA, NY
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Keidi S. Carrington brings a wealth of legal knowledge and business experience in the financial services area with a particular focus on investment management. She is a former securities examiner at the United States Securities & Exchange Commission (SEC) and Associate Counsel at State Street Bank & Trust and has consulted for various investment houses and private investment entities. Her work has included developing a mutual fund that invested in equity securities of listed real estate investment trusts (REITs) and other listed real estate companies; establishing private equity and hedge funds that help clients raise capital by preparing offering materials, negotiating with prospective investors, preparing partnership and LLC operating agreements and advising on and documenting management arrangements; advising on the establishment of Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs/Token Offerings) and counseling SEC registered and state investment advisers regarding organizational structure and compliance. Ms. Carrington is a graduate of Johns Hopkins University with a B.A. in International Relations. She earned her Juris Doctorate from New England Law | Boston and her LL.M. in Banking and Financial Law from Boston University School of Law. She is admitted to practice in Massachusetts and New York. Currently, her practice focuses on assisting investors, start-ups, small and mid-size businesses with their legal needs in the areas of corporate and securities law.

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Employment Handbook


Asked on Aug 11, 2021

Do salary employees pay for time off if office is closed?

My daughter is currently working for a Chiropractic Office in Jacksonville. She is still within her 90 days, she was hired as a salaried employee, if she works extra the pay is the same. However, due to an upcoming holiday, she was discussing her time off with another employee and how they would have several days off to equate to a long weekend. She was told that while they are closed that Friday if she wants to get paid she will have to use her accrued PTO or her pay will be deducted and she was told not to discuss pay, hours, or any such thing with her fellow employees to go straight to HR. From HR she was then told that they do not offer sick days so they must use their PTO for sick days and that it cannot be used for days off which does not make any sense to what was said before. So for days they are not open she is going to be getting money deducted even though it is beyond her control. She is 23, working her first real job and maybe I am wrong but something does not seem right. Is there anything wrong or am I just being a worried mother.

Forest H.

Answered Aug 23, 2021

There is a lot going on here. A couple of high points: 1) It is against federal labor law to prohibit employees from discussing their salary. 2) Salaried employees can be required to use PTO but their pay cannot be reduced to cover holidays if they don't have any PTO available. 3) 90 days is irrelevant, many employers will have a "probationary" period but that does not affect what laws apply to the employee.

Read 1 attorney answer>


Employment Handbook

New York

Asked on May 20, 2023

Employment handbook family leave policy?

I recently accepted a position at a new company and I was given an employee handbook to review prior to my start date. I noticed that the handbook does not include any information on family leave policies. I am wondering what the company's policies are related to family leave and how they may affect my employment. I would like to understand my rights and responsibilities as an employee when it comes to family leave.

Gregory F.

Answered Jul 6, 2023

Generally, employers must have at least 50 employees at your location or within a 75-mile radius of your location to be covered under the FMLA. Further, employees of covered employers are not eligible for FMLA leave until they have been employed for at least 1 year and have worked at least 1,250 hours within the past 12 months.

Read 1 attorney answer>

Employee Rights

Employment Handbook


Asked on Jun 19, 2023

Employment handbook employee privacy policy?

I recently started a new job and my employer provided me with an Employment Handbook. I have read through the handbook and noticed that there is not a section on employee privacy policies. I'm concerned that the lack of an employee privacy policy could leave me vulnerable to having my personal information shared without my knowledge or consent. I am interested to learn what kind of legal protections I may have in this situation.

Thomas L.

Answered Jun 30, 2023

There are numerous state and Federal laws governing your privacy, HIPAA being a notable example, so even if your employer had no handbook at all, your employer would still be subject to all these laws.

Read 1 attorney answer>


Employment Handbook


Asked on Jul 16, 2023

Employment handbook harassment policy?

I am a manager at a company that recently updated its employee handbook. I noticed that the new handbook does not include a policy for harassment, and I am concerned about how to handle such issues in my work environment. I am looking for an attorney to provide advice on the best way to implement a harassment policy and ensure that the policy is compliant with all applicable laws.

Diane D.

Answered Jul 25, 2023

You need to find an attorney that does employment law and HR law. If you want, you can contact me, and I can help. I am very familiar with harassment policies and the applicable laws, and have participated in creating handbooks for employees.

Read 1 attorney answer>


Employment Handbook


Asked on Aug 10, 2023

Employment handbook employee rights?

I am an employee of a company and I recently received a copy of the Employment Handbook that outlines the rights and responsibilities of the employees. After reading through the handbook, I am concerned that some of the policies may not be in compliance with the law. I want to make sure that my rights as an employee are being respected and that I am fully aware of any legal obligations that I may have.

Merry A.

Answered Aug 18, 2023

Hello - I have been an attorney for nearly 38 years and specialize in employment law. It would be helpful to know what policies concern you, but be aware that federal and state law, and usually county and city as well, override any policies that are incorrect. Meanwhile, keep in mind that if you are an "at will" employee you have few, if any rights (other than certain ones protected by law); that sometimes employers don't keep up with updating their polices; and that HR is not your friend. If you feel your rights are not being respected, you may want to book a 30 or 60 minute consultation with a WA State Employment attorney. If you feel you have been or are being discriminated against because of a protected class status, you can also file discrimination complaints with the WA State Human Rights Commission and/or the EEOC. If you are not getting the wages you should be receiving, you can file a wage complaint with the state; you will be protected from retaliation for doing so. If you feel your working conditions are unsafe, you can file a complaint with the WA State equivalent of OSHA, and/or with OSHA (federal). Best wishes, Merry

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