For business owners looking to guard against employment-related lawsuits, employee handbooks can provide an opportunity to set forth clear, concise policies regarding sick leave, personal days, discipline, benefits, work-life balance, inappropriate behavior, compensation, and other important issues. Carefully written employee manuals get everyone on the same page – literally – by clearly outlining company policy, laying ground rules, identifying important objectives, and establishing an overall culture.
All employee handbooks should have some fundamental information, including a clear disclaimer stating that the handbook is not an employment contract. A business attorney can help you prepare precise language to protect your rights. You should also expressly state that you reserve the right to modify the handbook, and the handbook should include a page where the employee can sign, acknowledging that he or she has read the handbook and understands its contents.
There are a number of state and federal laws that require employers to inform employees of their legal rights. Many businesses include employee handbook provisions that outline the following state and federal employment laws:
- Family Medical Leave Act. The FMLA applies to certain types of employers with 50 or more employees. Businesses that fall under the FMLA must give their workers up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave in a 12-month time period to bond with a new child, care for a sick family member, or deal with the worker’s own health condition. Arkansas also provides state family medical leave benefits for state employees; there are no such state-specific laws for private employers.
- Equal Opportunity Employer. Many employers include a section indicating that their policies are fully compliant with Title VII and Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) regulations.
- Workers’ Compensation. Arkansas law requires those employers who must provide employees with workers’ compensation insurance to post notices or a poster regarding workers’ compensation policies and benefits in conspicuous places. Many employers go one step further by placing this information in their employee handbooks.
Common Employer Policies
Each business is different, but many employers include the following information in their employee handbooks. These items allow both management and the workforce to efficiently handle conflicts, raise questions, and identify solutions that really work.
- Appropriate Behavior. This can be a comprehensive section that addresses everything from dress code and smoking to employee personal relationships and foul language. Harassment, whether it takes the form of workplace bullying or inappropriate sexual advances, is both distracting and unsettling. It also exposes the employer to significant liability. It’s especially important for employees to know whom in the organization they should contact if they are experiencing harassing behavior.
- Compensation. Compensation, vacation time, personal days, sick days, health insurance, and other benefits should be very clearly spelled out. Because this is something that often varies from employee to employee, ask your lawyer whether this item should be included in separate correspondence.
- Computer Use. In today’s fast-paced business world, many employees use several different forms of technology on an everyday basis. These devices include computers, smartphones, fax machines, tablets, and more. Employers should never assume that employees understand that this equipment is the employer’s property. The employee handbook should make it clear that all communication transmitted on company-owned devices is owned and controlled by the employer.
Kendall Law Firm: Experienced Arkansas Business and Employment Lawyers
Whether your business is large, small, or somewhere in between, drafting a solid employee handbook is no small task. The foregoing is just an outline of some of the things that can or should be in such handbooks, and you should consult with an experienced business and employment attorney to evaluate your specific needs and requirements. Kendall Law Firm’s comprehensive business law and employment law practices cover the full range of employment and management issues and can help with matters relating to employee handbooks. Contact us today at (479) 464-9828 to speak with one of our attorneys.
This article has been prepared by Kendall Law Firm, PLLC for informational purposes only and does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice. The information is not provided in the course of an attorney-client relationship and is not intended to substitute for legal advice from an attorney licensed in your jurisdiction.