Tips For Drafting Employee Handbooks – Tip #5: Updating Handbooks to Address Changes in the Legal Landscape
November 10, 2017
Authored by: Bill Wortel and Christy Phanthavong
This article is part five in a six-part series. The purpose of this series is to provide tips and identify potential pitfalls associated with the drafting of an employee handbook.
While an employee handbook serves many functions, its primary purpose from a legal standpoint is to reduce potential liability with respect to claims brought by current and former employees. Unfortunately, many employers are unwilling to commit the time and bear the expense of implementing an employee handbook (or updating an existing handbook) until after they have been sued and the absence (or poor draftsmanship) of a particular written policy has crippled their defense to an employment claim. The purpose of this series is to provide tips and identify potential pitfalls associated with the drafting of an employee handbook. Tip #5 focuses on the importance of consistently updating employee handbooks.
Tip #5: Updating Handbooks to Address Changes in the Legal Landscape
An employee handbook can only reduce potential liability if the policies therein are legally compliant. Accordingly, it pays to review your handbook periodically to ensure that your policies are up to date.
For example, multi-state employers need to be vigilant about ever-changing state-specific (and even city-specific) obligations. Current hot topics include leave rights (e.g., paid sick leave), drug testing (e.g., protection for medical marijuana use), and pregnancy accommodation. Rarely will a “one size fits all” policy on any of these or similar subjects be compliant in all jurisdictions. Accordingly, employers should consider state-specific addenda and update them regularly.