If you have not reviewed your employee handbook during the last year or two, now is a great time to do this as new employment laws often become effective at the beginning of the new year.
Here are the critical areas to review and update:
New and Updated Leave Laws – Sick Leave, Paid Family and Medical Leave, Other Leaves, etc.
Many states are adding and changing these laws. For example, on January 1, California extended the Family Leave Rights Act (FCRA) to employers with 5 or more employees (previously it only applied to those with 50 or more employees). New York state recently introduced a paid sick leave law (accruals began September 30, usage began January 1).
Other State Laws
States continue to add a variety of employment laws including inquiries about criminal and salary history, discussion of wages, pregnancy accommodation, minimum wage including minimum wage for exempt status employees, non-competition agreements, etc.
Review your local (city) employment laws as many cities have their own laws. In some cases, they supersede state and federal laws because they offer more generous benefits or better protections to employees. City laws can include minimum wage, paid sick leave, notification of wages to employees, equal employment opportunity, industry specific laws, etc.
Due to a Supreme Court decision last year, sexual orientation and gender identity are now protected classes under federal equal employment opportunity laws. In January 2020, overtime laws changed by substantially increasing the minimum salary required for employers to classify employees as exempt (not eligible for overtime)
Due to the pandemic, working from home became a wide spread practice in 2020. Even if employees may eventually return to the office, employers should include the rules for remote work in their employee handbook.
Thirty-five states have now approved medical marijuana use and 15 of those states plus Washington D.C. have also approved recreational use. Although employers may continue to ban marijuana use (or being under the influence) in the workplace, they should review their policies related to drug testing and avoiding discrimination of medical marijuana users.
Every handbook should include these important policies –
- At-will employment
- Standards of conduct
- Anti-harassment and nondiscrimination policies
- Reasonable accommodations for disabled individuals
- Reasonable accommodation for religion
- Use of company computer systems and equipment
- Problem resolution (grievance) and whistleblower policies
- Background checks
- Social media
- Rest and meal periods, overtime, time reporting
- Other company-specific policies as needed
Employee Handbook Acknowledgment Form
Every employee should sign this form when they receive an updated or new employee handbook. It should include an “at-will employment” statement. Maintain this form in personnel files as it may be needed if the employee files an unemployment or legal claim.
Are You Following Your Own Policies?
Employers need to review their handbooks to ensure they are following all of their policies, and there are not outdated policies that need to updated or removed from the handbook.
For expert assistance in updating your handbook: It can be overwhelming to keep an employee handbook current (or create one from scratch) without the assistance of a human resources expert. LJ Consulting provides expertise to employers to ensure they have an up-to-date compliant and customized employee handbook.