employee handbook

The Importance of an Up-to-date Employee Handbook

by | April 3, 2017

When is the last time you looked at your employee handbook?

When business owners ask for advise around managing employees or workforce issues, we often begin by asking , “Do you have a policy around [insert relevant issue : Time sheets? Vaping? Bringing your bunny to work]?” We frequently look to the handbook as a starting point for discussion with our client. If you are like many business owners, you invested considerable time and effort creating a handbook that reflected your company’s values and culture and contained important policies in one central location, but then you got busy and your handbook hasn’t been reviewed or updated for 1, 2 or even 10 years!

An outdated handbook creates legal liability. Here are some example handbook policies we come across frequently that do so:

1) Withholding paychecks or docking pay when employees turn time cards in late. Yes, many employers struggle with getting their employees to turn in time sheets. However, wage and hour laws require that employers pay employees for all hours worked on regularly schedule pay days. It is the employer’s obligation to keep accurate records of hours worked. Withholding and docking employees’ pay is generally unlawful as the employer bears the ultimate responsibility for paying employees for hours worked.

2) Prohibiting employees from sharing their wages, salary, or benefit information. This is greatly misunderstood by employers. With some exceptions, the National Labor Relations Act protects private sector employees’ right to engage in concerted activities for the purpose of collecting bargaining or other mutual aid or protection. This includes discussing wages and conditions of employment.

3) PTO policies that don’t comply with Seattle’s Paid Sick and Safe Time Ordinance (PSST). If you are a covered employer, you still need to comply with PSST even if you have a PTO policy and even if the paid time off offered is more generous than what the law requires. Does your written policy include your tier size, benefit year, and notice requirements? Don’t forget that all employers have to pay sick and safe time in Washington under Initiative 1433.

4) Anti-harassment policies that don’t include a procedure for reporting and addressing harassment. It is not enough to prohibit Employees need to know who they can go to to report unlawful harassment. It is also helpful to explain how complaints will be handled.

We always suggest that companies review their handbooks with counsel periodically. At the rate that employment law has been changing in our region, a yearly review is highly recommended. Let us know if we can help!