July '20

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JULY 2020 THE SHOP 13 binder of pages covering the core issues. But, once that document is completed, make sure everyone reads it and signs a document stating they did so. Then make sure everyone understands the policies must be followed consistently. "The most common mistake is creating an employee handbook and then not following it," says De Lima. "Often this is because supervisors are not well-trained and do not understand the importance of consistency." The result, says De Lima, can be a costly lawsuit. "Suppose Employee A is treated one way when violating a policy and Employee B is treated another way," she says. "If Employee B is a protected class under equal opportunity laws, he or she may have a cause for action." Laws on the federal level, and often on the state and local levels as well, prohibit discrimination by such characteristics as race, religion, sex, and national origin. SMART ROLLOUT Has your business operated for years without any handbook at all? If so, intro- ducing a new one can create a morale issue when employees feel as though they are being force-fed a whole new slew of work- place rules. To avoid this, introduce the handbook as a tool for enhancing the workplace envi- ronment. "I would introduce a new employee handbook as part of a morale-boosting celebration of the progress being made by the business," says Avdoian. He suggests distributing the handbook at a company luncheon, for example, using words such as these: "Thanks to everyone in this room, we have grown to the point where we can fur- ther fine-tune our business. We are now distributing an employee handbook. Most of you already know about our benefits, but perhaps you have forgotten some of them. This handbook includes all of them in one place and outlines the company's expectations for the future." UPDATE REGULARLY Researched, written, published, distributed and signed off on. Once you have com- pleted the employee handbook cycle, you have positioned your business to operate more efficiently and profitably. But the handbook is not meant to be a set it and forget it tool. Laws, regulations and workplaces constantly change. Keep asking this question: Does our handbook wording need to be altered to reflect new realities? "It's critical to review your handbook on a regular basis," advises Gregg. Add policies that reflect new challenges and opportuni- ties. And toss those no longer valid. "Clean out your policies like you would old clothes from your closet," he says. "Handbooks should not be designed by hoarders." What Goes in the Employee Handbook? Employee handbook policies will be as varied as businesses themselves. You should consult with your attorney to understand what should (and should not) be included. Here are some questions that handbooks often answer: What is your policy on sick leave and vacation? On attendance and tardiness? May employees drink alcohol at lunch? Will you be testing for drug use? Will the employer be inspecting desks, emails and voicemail messages? What insurance and other benefits will employees enjoy? How can employees ask for pay corrections related to overtime? In addition to the above, many handbooks clearly lay out policies prohibiting workplace harassment, as well as the gathering of any genetic or family medical information. —Phillip M. Perry

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