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Employee Issues? Don't Forget to Refer to Your Handbook

Posted on 5/16/2018 by Michael Zamora
Employee handbooks are a must-have resource for every practice. Whether your company has 5 employees or 50, your handbook is imperative for ensuring legal compliance, such as leaves of absences and prohibited sexual harassment, as well as clarifying your position on things from proper office attire to employee cell phone usage. It is important to remember, however, that your employee handbook is only helpful if you are consistently aligning disciplinary action and processes according to the handbook. Here are 3 key suggestions for ensuring that your handbook continues to protect your interests:

1. Review your handbook often
Providing handbooks to new hires and requiring them to read it is (or should be) a standard practice during the orientation process. But you should also be reading your handbook to keep its terms fresh in your mind. Reading your handbook allows you to check for errors and to ensure that its provisions continue to be relevant. Additionally, if processes have changed or been updated, it is important revisions are made to your handbook and redistributed to your staff with updates.

2. Refer to your handbook before resolving issues
Sometimes an employee issue can seem simple, leaving you feeling comfortable with resolving it on the fly. However, by doing so, you may unwittingly be taking a position which is at odds with your handbook terms. Before making a decision, check your handbook so provide your employees with clear, consistent applications of its principles procedures. Additionally, referencing your handbook for applications of principles and procedures ensures you are handling all situations consistently, and more importantly objectively, avoiding high-risk discrimination claims.

3. Be wary of straying from handbook terms
Your handbook’s terms are there for a reason. They help to ensure that you are applying the rules fairly and consistently, and to give your employees guidance as to what is expected of them. By straying from its terms, you are, at best, undermining your handbook’s importance, and, at worst, putting your practice at risk of a lawsuit. For example, say that your handbook outlines the requirements for closed-toe shoes in your office. One of your otherwise reliable employees violates this policy, but no actions are taken. A new hire who violates the same policy is sent home to change to meet handbook standards. By treating the employees disproportionately, you could be opening yourself up to allegations of discrimination (regardless of your intent).

Your employee handbook keeps your office running smoothly. To get the most from your handbook, remember to read it often, always refer it in cases of dispute, and avoid straying from its terms whenever possible. When used effectively, your handbook can be an extremely beneficial HR tool.

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