Employers with more than a few employees must have handbooks. Handbooks are the way to establish and enforce consistency in how employees are treated. They articulate the employer’s philosophy, policies, and promise to abide by the all the employment laws. Handbooks also help insulate employers from employment claims and help ensure employees are treated with consistency. Of course, handbooks are only good if they are followed and applied evenly.
Handbooks are not one-size-fits all. They must be tailored made to fit your company. Do not download a handbook from the Internet, put your company’s logo on it, and distribute it to your employees. Although there are certain policies that must be included in every handbook, there are myriad clauses that should not be included in every handbook. When it comes to handbooks, you truly do get what you pay for. Austin Legal has created, updated, reviewed, and rewritten hundreds of handbooks, and not one has been identical to another.
Handbooks should have the following clauses in them: at-will; not a contract; no harassment, discrimination, or retaliation; EEO policy, leaves of absence, discipline is not progressive, handbook policies are subject to change; and employee acknowledgment page. Most handbooks have many more policies and clauses than what is included here. But, every handbook should have at least these clauses. In fact, Austin Legal has created a database of hundreds of handbook policies for clients to pick and choose which ones belong in their handbooks.
Handbooks that are not followed are a plaintiff lawyer’s dream. Matt Austin cannot count how many times a client is faced with an agency charge or lawsuit alleging that his client did not follow its own handbook. Make sure that if you make the time and investment in developing a handbook that all levels of management understand the critical importance of consistently and fairly following that handbook.