Articles Posted in Employee Handbooks

Drafting Your Employee Handbook is the title of an employment-law seminar I presented to two Delaware employers earlier this week.  The materials and PowerPoint slides from the seminar are linked below for your reference.

The

includes a number of policies, separated into various categories.  The first three categories specifically address common issues faced by Delaware employers.

A legally effective anti-harassment policy is an absolute requirement for any employee handbook.  There is not a single reason to not have a policy that effectively establishes the organization’s prohibition against harassment and related retaliation.  But there are millions of reasons to make sure that your handbook includes such a policy and that the workplace is set to manage a complaint of harassment should it receive one.   Employee Handbooks

To make sure your employee handbook includes a legally effective anti-harassment policy, a great place to start is with the EEOC itself.  In 2005, the EEOC issued the findings of a limited review of the anti-harassment programs in 43 federal agencies and one component’s 64 sub-agencies.  The findings that were published included an excellent overview of the purposes of an anti-harassment program and the legal requirements of an effective policy.  The EEOC’s report is as relevant and accurate today for private-sector employers as it was three years ago for federal-agency employers. 

According to the EEOC, an anti-harassment policy and complaint procedure should contain, at a minimum:

Drafting Your Employee Handbook is the title of the employment-law seminar I taught last week. I spoke on the topic in downstate Delaware and will be presenting another sold-out session in Wilmington, Delaware, on Thursday.  [For those interested, I’ll be posting the materials from the seminar after this week’s session].    Employee Handbooks

The agenda for the 2-hour program includes:

  • An overview of the purposes of an effective employee handbook and a discussion of basic drafting principles to keep in mind when writing a handbook; 
  • A review of the elements of each of the 10 policies that absolutely must be included in every employee handbook;
  • A discussion of other, recommended policies, as grouped into 10 broad categories;
  • An in-depth look at 5 technology-based policies that should be included in your next handbook update; and
  • A discussion about the best practices for implementing changes to your handbook.

Seminar attendees were Delaware small-business owners and HR professionals from a variety of industries.  As is usually the case in a seminar with attendees from multiple organizations, there were a number of different perspectives offered, lending to insightful questions.  The discussions gave me an opportunity to hear directly from employers about the specific problems they face in managing employees and implementing their desired policies. 

When I do employment law training and seminars, I solicit feedback from participants with a questionnaire.  One of the questions is what other topics are of the most interest to audience members. Recently, I’ve seen a surge of requests for employment law seminars on How to Create Employee Manuals. Because I aim to please, I’ll be conducting a seminar on the topic in October.  But, to hold you over until then, I thought readers might appreciate some posts on specific handbook policies. 

man's fists ready to fight

Given the recent movement against Jerks at Work, we get more and more requests from clients for a Respectful Workplace policy for their employee manuals.  These types of policies have significant flexibility depending on the level of the organization’s commitment to eradicating jerks in the workplace. 

Here are some pointers for crafting a Respectful Workplace Policy:

Delaware busineses, like the rest of the country, have felt the pinch of a slowed economy. Delaware employees are no exception. Secondary employment or moonlighting has become common as a result.

The continually increasing and record-high price of gas has made it difficult for some to make ends meet. The Department of Labor (DOL) reports that the number of workers working two jobs has increased 5% since last year. Some workers have resorted to a second job in an effort to protect themselves from financial devastation. Others want to maintain a certain lifestyle and have taken additional employment to ensure they are able to make nonessential purchases. Despite how commonplace moonlighting may become, the practice has real consequences for employers, especially for the business where the employee works full-time.

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Employers should consider implementing a moonlighting policy if they don’t have one already in place. Some policies prohibit moonlighting outright. Of course, the risk of this is that your employees may be forced to find a full-time job that doesn’t have sucha restriction–especially if the employee’s financial state is particularly serious.

Don’t know the difference?  Residents of Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania sure do.  “The Shore” refers to the New Jersey Shore and all of the wonderful towns that it includes.  “The Beach,” on the other hand, refers to the Maryland and Delaware Beaches, including Ocean City, Maryland (not to be confused with Ocean City, NJ, of course), Rehobeth, and Lewis, Delaware, to name a few. 

beach chairs and ocean

Any self-respecting East-Coast native knows that Memorial Day weekend is synonymous with the start of the summer.  And with the summer comes the shore or beach, depending on your current geography. 

And what, you ask, does this have to do with employment law?  Lots, actually.  Just ask the blogosphere.

Delaware businesses must have a written electronic-monitoring policy if they want to monitor phone, e-mail, or computer usage by employees. Delaware law requires employers to get either a signed consent from employees or to have a message conveying the policy that is shown to the employee each time he logs on to the computer. And even in states without such laws, unless you have a written isittimetou1policy that communicated to employees, you stand to risk a privacy claim. The key is to ensure that your employees do not have a “legitimate expectation of privacy” in their use of your electronic systems.

And that’s where your policy comes in. Current is the key. The modern trend in electronic-communications policies has been to include provisions specific to blogging, cell-phones, and text messaging. We often counsel clients to improve their policies to reflect the state of technology. It seems that we have a lot in common with the Mayor of Detroit, Maybe Kwame Kilkpatrick.

Mayor Kilpatrick has implemented a new policy that text messages sent on city-owned devices are considered private. As you may recall, Kilpatrick and his ex-top aide face perjury charges for testimony they gave during a whistleblowers’ trial that they didn’t have a romantic relationship. Sexually explicit text messages have contradicted that testimony. Kilpatrick’s lawyers say federal law protects the release of such communications. The policy began Thursday, April 16, 2008.

flag-pin.bmpAt the democratic debate held last night at Philadelphia’s own Constitution Center, Senator Barack Obama was asked why he did not wear an American flag pin in his lapel. While that may be an appropriate question for a presidential candidate, what happens if the issue sparks a political debate around the water cooler?

Can work and politics mix?

Probably not. That’s not to say that talking politics at work is unlawful–it’s just not a good idea. Politics bring strong emotions that may have no place in the office. Political debates can be loud, distracting, and offensive to colleagues. Let’s face it, if you can’t talk about who you’re going to vote for at a dinner party with friends without stirring the pot, you should definitely think twice about doing it at work.

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