ILMA Compoundings August 2017 - 34

COUNSEL COMPOUND

Another Look at
Employee Handbooks
By Jeff Leiter

A

frequent task for our law firm
is assisting clients with their
employee handbooks. Most
ILMA members have handbooks to
help new employees with everything
from company culture to dress codes
and benefits. These manuals, if properly drafted, also provide important legal
protections for the company. Below is
a sketch of what we look for as a basic
template in every employee handbook.
Our review of employee handbooks
starts with the welcome and introduction sections. While it is appropriate to
welcome new employees and introduce
the company's philosophy and core
principles, some employers go a tad too
far. Our preference is to include statements in this introductory section that
emphasize the noncontractual nature of
the employee handbook and the at-will
nature of the employment relationship
that can be terminated at any time,
with or without reason or notice, by
either the employer or the employee.
We ensure that employee handbooks
include statements about equal employment opportunity and the company's
policy prohibiting unlawful discrimination and harassment. We check that
the statements and policies apply to all
terms and conditions of employment,
including recruitment, hiring, placement, compensation, promotion, discipline and termination. Keep in mind
that state and local laws often provide
greater employee protections than
federal anti-discrimination laws, so you
need to be aware of these laws. It is also
advisable to indicate the company's
compliance with immigration laws.
After the introduction, the bulk
of many employee handbooks cover
company policies, including attendance,
the use of company property (e.g.,
equipment, vehicles, technology and

34

AUGUST 2017

| COMPOUNDINGS | ILMA.ORG

software), dress code, drug use, outside
employment, expense reporting, social
media and privacy rules (e.g., confidentiality and intellectual property ownership). It is important to include clear
statements about disciplinary action that
would follow violations of these policies
and where employees may take any
concerns or problems. I usually like to
remind employees about the company's
ethical and legal obligations, also. Again,
be aware of individual requirements set
by state and local laws (e.g., concerning
meal and break times).
Employee handbooks also should describe any employee benefits, including
information about health insurance, a
company retirement plan (e.g., 401(k)
plan), workers' compensation and
disability coverage. Usually we look for a
basic description of the benefits, including eligibility, in the handbook, because
most benefits have separately detailed
plan documents. At the same time,
there should be a disclaimer that, in the
event of any inconsistencies between the
handbook's description of benefits and a
formal plan document, the formal plan
document will prevail.
We recently have modified a number
of employee handbooks for their policies
about leave, vacations and anything
involving employees' time off. Many
employers are bundling various types of
leave into one "personal time off" benefit.
Here, it is important to set forth how
leave is accrued. Keep in mind that an
increasing number of states and local
jurisdictions are requiring employers to
provide a minimum number of paid sick
leave days to employees. Policies on family medical leave, jury duty, military leave
and time off for court cases and voting
must comply with state and local laws.
A properly drafted section covering
how employee performance will be as-

sessed will go a long way in minimizing
problems surrounding "poor performance" terminations. We usually include expectations about mutual respect,
common courtesy and the consequences
for insubordination. In addition, we
stress communicating how the company
will react to different levels of problems, such as the progression of actions
that can be taken from warnings up to
termination. Keep in mind that setting
out a progressive discipline system in a
handbook can be binding, so a company
does run a risk for not adhering to its
own policies. In this section, we like to
include language that personal situations
may arise that will require a voluntary
termination of employment.
It is important to also set forth
information on workplace safety,
security and emergency procedures
in the handbook. We usually include
the name of the company's accident
contact and the location of safety data
sheets, safety posters and related information. Accident reporting for company vehicles also should be detailed.
While the above seems to be common
sense, remember that company policies
and procedures in the handbook cannot
be enforced if an employee did not read
them. As a result, we include a clause
that must be signed by the employee
stating that he or she has received, read
and understood the handbook.
This column only scratches the surface; it is intended as a reminder that a
company should routinely review and
update its employee handbook.
Leiter serves as general
counsel to ILMA, representing
the Association since 1981. He
may be reached at 202-4666502 or jleiter@bmalaw.net.


http://www.ILMA.ORG

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of ILMA Compoundings August 2017

Letter From the President
Letter From the CEO
Inside ILMA
What's Coming Up
In the Know
Industry Rundown
Market Report
Bridging the Gap from ILSAC GF-5 to GF-6
Who's Next
It's About the Process
Business Hub
Counsel Compound
Washington Landscape
Member Connections
Cross Connections
Portrait
ILMA Compoundings August 2017 - Cover1
ILMA Compoundings August 2017 - Cover2
ILMA Compoundings August 2017 - 1
ILMA Compoundings August 2017 - 2
ILMA Compoundings August 2017 - Letter From the President
ILMA Compoundings August 2017 - 4
ILMA Compoundings August 2017 - Letter From the CEO
ILMA Compoundings August 2017 - Inside ILMA
ILMA Compoundings August 2017 - 7
ILMA Compoundings August 2017 - What's Coming Up
ILMA Compoundings August 2017 - 9
ILMA Compoundings August 2017 - Industry Rundown
ILMA Compoundings August 2017 - 11
ILMA Compoundings August 2017 - Market Report
ILMA Compoundings August 2017 - 13
ILMA Compoundings August 2017 - 14
ILMA Compoundings August 2017 - 15
ILMA Compoundings August 2017 - Bridging the Gap from ILSAC GF-5 to GF-6
ILMA Compoundings August 2017 - 17
ILMA Compoundings August 2017 - 18
ILMA Compoundings August 2017 - 19
ILMA Compoundings August 2017 - 20
ILMA Compoundings August 2017 - 21
ILMA Compoundings August 2017 - Who's Next
ILMA Compoundings August 2017 - 23
ILMA Compoundings August 2017 - 24
ILMA Compoundings August 2017 - 25
ILMA Compoundings August 2017 - 26
ILMA Compoundings August 2017 - 27
ILMA Compoundings August 2017 - It's About the Process
ILMA Compoundings August 2017 - 29
ILMA Compoundings August 2017 - 30
ILMA Compoundings August 2017 - 31
ILMA Compoundings August 2017 - Business Hub
ILMA Compoundings August 2017 - 33
ILMA Compoundings August 2017 - Counsel Compound
ILMA Compoundings August 2017 - 35
ILMA Compoundings August 2017 - Member Connections
ILMA Compoundings August 2017 - 37
ILMA Compoundings August 2017 - Cross Connections
ILMA Compoundings August 2017 - 39
ILMA Compoundings August 2017 - Portrait
ILMA Compoundings August 2017 - Cover3
ILMA Compoundings August 2017 - Cover4
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