James F. Mahoney, Attorney
Commentaries
 
     

January 2012

Avoid Conflicting Provisions in Your Employee Manuals

When a new topic comes along, make a note and then incorporate it into the handbook at the next annual revision, making sure the new policy is consistent with the policies in place

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Has this ever happened to you? Your boss comes back from a seminar and shoots an email that says “we need a policy on [you fill in the blank here: social media, whistle-blowing, cell phones].”

So you download a form from the Internet and distribute it to employees to address the hot issue of the moment.

Good idea? No, definitely not a good idea. It creates multiple company mandates, conflicting rules and can be used against you and all your good intentions.

Every employer, large or small, needs an employee/driver handbook that addresses all specific work issues; contains a confidentiality agreement to protect company proprietary information; and to the extent permissible, has an arbitration agreement.

The handbook should be drafted as a single document, so that your policy on, say, Facebook use, doesn’t unintentionally contradict another section.

For example, your confidentiality agreement should not allow you, the employer, to go to court for a TRO to stop an errant former employee when your Arbitration Agreement provides otherwise. Your social media policy should be cross-referenced and not conflict with your harassment policies and neither policy should run afoul of current NLRB rulings. Employees should sign off on the updated handbook each year.

The employee handbook is the place for all company policies, and should be updated annually, preferably at the same time each year. When a new topic comes along, make a note and then incorporate it into the handbook at the next revision, making sure the new policy is consistent with the policies in place.