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Does A Municipality Really Need A Handbook? Absolutely.

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Melissa J. Jackson
Foster Swift Municipal Law News
September 2012

Every employer should understand and appreciate the value of having a handbook that is tailored to its operations, as well as having policies that reflect their current circumstances, and current law. This is just as true for municipal employers. An employee handbook is a compilation of policies that clearly states the expectations of both the employer and employee. The handbook normally provides the following:

  1. Written documentation of the employer's rules – such as a rule barring non-employment related use of the municipality’s computers, or excessive Internet use;
  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 or she has read the handbook.

Through the process of working with your employment attorney in drafting an employee handbook, municipalities can better protect themselves against potential employment lawsuits and 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 employee, while the federal Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 applies to employers with just fifteen employees. All employers should be aware of the particular employment laws that apply to it 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, easily, and inexpensively defended if the handbook has certain provisions and disclaimers. An employee handbook that is current can help avoid costly legal expenses. In today's employment climate, an employee handbook is essential.

If you have questions about municipal handbooks, please contact Melissa Jackson.