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Employment Handbook Mistake #5


Those of you that follow this Blog, know that when it comes to romance, I have no use for it in the workplace. (Don’t send me an email about how you met your spouse at work. In my book you are the exception not the rule.) Don’t pass out when you read what I am going to say next. Sometime before the end of the year, find a cozy place, preferably with a fireplace and a great view, get a bottle of champagne, and sit down on the couch with your significant other/spouse/partner/bff or, if you have none of the aforementioned, call the dog or cat. Then pull out the company employment handbook and read it. In my book, nothing says I love you like a well drafted “at will policy.” Only the lawyers and HR professionals will appreciate this.

Seriously, if your company is not dying a slow death, in the past year things have changed and your company has changed its practices. Somewhere in the “I’ll get to it someday file” there is an email from your lawyer advising you there has been a change in the law that may impact your policies and procedures. Those changes should be reflected in the policies, procedures and forms you use. What may have seemed like a great policy last year may prove to be unworkable today. That form, every manager was going to use when counseling an employee, may have proved to be too cumbersome. Old forms and policies have a nasty way of causing you headaches when you are involved in litigation. I tried a case in which the employer defendant had a beautiful 5 page policy that detailed how investigations of harassment and discrimination complaints were supposed to be conducted. It was a thing of beauty, guaranteed to make a law professor smile, and prompt tears of joy in the eyes of any HR professional. The problem was that the policy was not drafted with an eye toward how this or any growing company operated. As a result, no one followed the policy. It became an anchor around the employer’s neck at trial and was one of the reasons the jury found against the company. While you may appreciate that on occasion policies are drafted and never used, jurors (who incidentally are or have been employees) don’t see it that way. Jurors expect you to say what you mean and mean what you say. That applies to your employment handbook.

So here is my takeaway: It you don’t need it, if it is not used, and it is not required by law, either fix it or get rid of it . Sometimes, less is indeed more.

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