|Updated: 4/11/2007 10:26 am
||Published: 4/11/2007 10:26 am
An employee handbook typically contains information about a company's work rules and polices. These handbooks are designed to be helpful resources for employees, as they often provide detailed information about a company's benefit programs, discipline policies, and safety procedures. Though employee handbooks can be valuable tools in the workplace, they do carry certain risks and obligations if they're poorly devised or not understood by employees. For example, if an employee handbook doesn't contain a clearly stated policy on procedures for employees to follow if they wish to complain of sexual harassment, an employee can claim that he or she didn't know there was a procedure to investigate such complaints. As a result, to avoid legal problems, manuals should be clearly written and organized in a manner that's easy to understand by employees. A well-written handbook can greatly minimize the risk of groundless claims of unlawful employment discrimination. Employers should also avoid making promises or guarantees that they don't intend to keep. It may be necessary to include disclaimers in the handbook that articulate the rights of the employer, such as reserving the right to change or eliminate policies. If such disclaimers aren't present, employers may be contractually bound to their policies. Finally, though employee manuals can be an effective way for employers to insure that employees are aware of a company's rules and expectations, they may serve no purpose if managers don't enforce the polices consistently and fairly. Employers must stick with the stated written policies or be liable for breach of contract or claims of discrimination. Keep in mind that there's no law that requires employers to write and distribute an employee handbook. However, various state and local laws do require that employers post notices to their employees advising them of the minimum wage, overtime provisions, fair labor standards, and other employment laws and employees' rights.