With the end of the year in sight, this is a perfect time to review your employee policies and procedures manual and identify portions that may be outdated so you start 2018 with a handbook that is up to date.
We’ve seen some recent court decisions that had a significant impact on employer/employee relations, as did several executive actions of the new presidential administration. While the employment law landscape will probably continue to change, it’s always important to keep handbooks up to date, even if you wind up having to update them again in just a few months.
As you give your handbook a thorough review, here are some key areas to consider:
Before getting into the judicial and regulatory decisions that have affected employment law, think about changes that may have occurred in your organization since the last handbook update. For example, Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act only applies to employers with 15 or more employees. If your staff has grown beyond the 15-employee threshold since the last update, you may want to revisit the sections covering employees with disabilities. In the same manner, the Family and Medical Leave Act applies to workplaces with 50 or more employees within a 75-mile radius; if this threshold has been reached or is close, it is time to get current.
In August 2016 the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) ruled that Chipotle’s social media policy, which prohibited employees from “posting incomplete, confidential or inaccurate information,” violated the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). In the ruling the board stated “in order to lose the act’s protection, more than a false or misleading statement by the employee is required; it must be shown that the employee had a malicious motive.” Following this decision, many employers took the opportunity to review their social media policies and clarify vague descriptions of acceptable and unacceptable employee behavior on social networks.
In December 2016, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) put new anti-retaliation provisions into effect. Under the new regulations, employers are prohibited from retaliating against employees who report workplace injuries or illnesses, and they are required to inform employees of their right to report such matters. Even if it’s been implied or verbally communicated that employees have the right to report injuries without retaliation, it’s a good idea to have it explicitly stated in your handbook.
In May 2016, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issued a document stating that reasonable accommodation for employees with disabilities “can include making modifications to existing leave policies and providing leave when needed for a disability, even where an employer does not offer leave to other employees.” Before reviewing your company’s leave policy, become familiar with the EEOC document and determine whether that chapter of your handbook needs editing.
Many of the issues raised in the last year, such as the new overtime rule, have yet to be decided, but employers still must ensure that their employee handbooks stay up to date. We’ve listed a few key issues above, and there are many more to consider. If you have questions, consult your legal counsel.