An Employee Handbook, also known as an Employee Manual, is a book given to employees by an employer which includes information about company policies and procedures. Many people are unaware however that an Employee Handbook can serve to bind both the employee and employer to certain terms and conditions of employment.
Typical terms and conditions of employment which may be set forth in an Employee Handbook include, but are not limited to:
- Employee classifications: Usually, at larger companies, employee positions are structured in a hierarchy such that responsibility is distributed based on the level of experience and qualification of each employee. Further, employee benefits, such as salary, for example, may be determined based on the employee’s qualifications and placement within this hierarchy. An explanation of an employee’s position within the company can often be found within an Employee Handbook. This may include a definition and distinction between part and full-time employees, exempt and non-exemt status employees, as well as policies related to promotions, demotions, lay-offs, seniority, and re-calls.
- Work schedule: It should also define the work week and schedule of hours. It should include information relating to daily work stoppages, both paid and unpaid, for lunch and other breaks. Personal days, sick leave, and vacations should also be set forth in the Employee Handbook.
- Employee salary and defined benefits: If there is an Employee Handbook, information about employees’ rate of pay, wages, or salary, and benefits may be defined in it. Typically, new employees are awarded some benefits, plus additional rewards (such as enrollment in a pension or 401K retirement account program, additional vacation, and pay raises), or fringe benefits, after having worked for a company for a certain period of time. Common examples of compensation that may be outlined are performance, merit, or annual bonuses. For many, bonuses are an important part of employees’ compensation. An Employee Handbook sometimes details how one may earn a bonus as well as the amount of the bonus. Moreover, an Employee Handbook may detail how sales commissions are earned and what percentage of sales an employee earns through a commission.
- Conduct and discipline: An Employee Handbook commonly binds employees to a code of conduct and discipline. Typical provisions of conduct and policy within an Employee Handbook include a company’s sexual harassment, equal employment, non-discrimination, alcohol and/or drug abuse, grounds for termination (getting fired) and due process rights, freedom of speech in the workplace and on social media, use of email and the internet, and attendance policies. Another significant element of conduct policies often found in Employee Handbooks is the dissemination of a procedure for filing a grievance, or communicating work-related issues with supervisors and/or human resources.
- Performance: In some instances, expectations of performance for a particular position may be laid out in an Employee Handbook. This may include corporate culture, sales quotas, execution of specific duties, prioritization of duties, and client satisfaction. Also regularly included in an Employee Handbook is a company’s policy as it relates to performance evaluations.
- Work-related injuries: An Employee Handbook should include policies and procedures which dictate how one should report work-related injuries, or injuries that take place while working. It should also state its Worker’s Compensation Insurance policy.
- Family and medical issues: If the employer qualifies as covered by the U.S. Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 – generally if it has 50 or more employees – an Employee Handbook is required to have information about FMLA.
Sometimes there is no Handbook or Manual. Sometimes policies are issued in a series of memoranda that are posted and distributed to the workforce. Sometimes some or all policies are set forth in a hiring or “welcome” letter to each employee. Whatever the case, invariably the writing will disclaim that it is an employment contract and management reserves its right to modify its provisions. Sometimes workplace policies are unwritten. This can lead to confusion and challenge particularly if the policies are not followed consistently.
At Gilbert Law Group, we have experience developing, writing, and interpreting Employee Handbooks. We have advised clients on workplace policy and implementation for over 34 years.
CONTACT Gilbert Law Group today: 631.630.0100