Are you in the process of creating or updating your employee handbook? If so, be sure to avoid making these common mistakes. By ensuring that your handbook is accurate and up to date, you can help protect your business from liability and ensure that your employees are aware of their rights and responsibilities.
1. Gender Specific Dress Codes
Be very mindful of speaking about people in a gender-specific way. Be wary of policies that only place limitations on what females specifically can or cannot wear and make your dress code policy gender neutral.
2. Harassment Policy Bottlenecks
First, ensure you have a harassment policy in place. Then, give the employee at least two points of contact for complaints (multiple complaint channels). Make it easy for your employees to voice their concerns to you.
3. Religious, Racial and Cultural Holidays Have Meaning
Be mindful of which holidays you select, and which major ones you do not. The holidays you observe (or omit) have cultural, religious, and racial implications. If you observe Christmas and not Yom Kippur or Diwali, be mindful of when these other holidays are from a religious lens.
Also, look at certain holidays through a racial lens, like Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Columbus Day, Indigenous People’s Day, and Juneteenth. Be careful not to discount some of these as just secondary or “floating” holidays.
4. Handbooks Are Not Employment Contracts
Remove clauses that try to “bind” the employee to them.
Example: non-compete agreements do not belong in a handbook. These go into an employment contract or confidentiality agreement.
5. Forgetting An At-Will Employment Disclaimer
Handbooks should include an at-will employment disclaimer.
Example: Your employment with Lipp Law is at-will in nature, meaning that you can be terminated at any time, with or without notice, for any reason, provided the reason is lawful. Likewise, the employee can terminate the employment relationship at any time, for any reason, with or without notice, but of course advance notice is always appreciated to ensure a smooth transition of services for our clients.
6. Making the Handbook Too Long
50 pages is too long! Edit your handbook for conciseness. Less is more.
7. Not Updating Your Paid Time Off (PTO) Policy Annually
The paid time off rules vary by state and change often. Certain jurisdictions, like DC and Maryland, require employers to provide sick leave. The federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) mandate, which required many US employers to provide paid sick and family leave due to COVID, expired on December 31, 2020.
However, the federal Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which applies to most employers with 50 or more employees, provides qualified employees with up to 12 weeks of unpaid family and medical leave, and companies can voluntarily provide FFCRA leave through March.
In your employee handbook, ensure that you know which state laws you are subject to, and what the paid time off rules are in each state. Also, know which federal paid time off laws you are subject to.
Have a policy on whether you pay out accrued unused PTO when an employee leaves your company. In some states, like Virginia, you are not legally required to pay out accrued, unused PTO. In DC and Maryland, you are required to pay out accrued unused PTO absent a written policy otherwise.
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