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Consider An Employee Handbook

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Melissa J. Jackson
Foster Swift Agricultural Law Update
June 2012

No two employers are exactly the same; neither are two employee handbooks. Every employer should understand and appreciate the value of having a handbook that is tailored to their business, as well as policies that reflect their current circumstances, as well as current law.

An employee handbook is a compilation of policies that clearly states the expectations of both the employer and employee. The handbook provides: (1) written documentation of the employer's rules; (2) notices and policies that reflect applicable laws and legal defenses; (3) a designated person to contact with any questions about the employer's policies or rules; (4) employer obligations to the employee; and (5) an acknowledgement by the employee that he/she has read the handbook.

Through the process of working with your employment attorney in drafting an employee handbook, you will learn how to better protect your organization against potential employment claims and how to satisfy legal obligations. Those legal obligations can vary, depending on the size and character of the employer. For example, Michigan's Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act applies to employers with only one (1) employee while the federal Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 applies to employers with just fifteen (15) employees. All employers should be aware of which employment laws apply because that dictates legal obligations.

Many employment claims can be prevented by having an employment handbook that clearly and accurately specifies expectations of the employee as well as the consequences of not meeting those expectations. Other employment claims can be quickly and easily defended by including certain provisions and disclaimers. An employee handbook that is current and that reflects your specific organization can help you avoid costly legal expenses. In today's employment climate, an employee handbook is essential.