BOOM! 6 Landmines that Could Be in Your Employee Handbook - Nextep Weekly Tip

Beth Dean 08.16.22
Nextep Weekly Tip - employee handbook

Could your employee handbook stand up to a lawsuit or EEOC claim? Here are six tricky areas that could mean trouble for your company.

Landmine 1: A handbook that’s older than dirt

When was the last time you reviewed your company’s employee handbook? If it’s been longer than a year, then it’s been too long. 

Sometimes the laws stay the same, and there is no need to actually make updates from one year to the next. But a critical review of every policy should still be part of the company’s annual plans. 

More often, things do change. A court case decision may set a new precedent. Recreational or medicinal drug laws could loosen or toughen up in a state. Fashion trends may usher in a new level of inappropriateness. A new mobile app or social media platform may take over productivity. There are a number of things that can happen in a year; make sure your handbook can keep up with the changes.


Landmine 2: No written acknowledgments

In the eyes of the court, if it’s not in writing, then it didn’t happen. 

Nextep’s HR experts have seen unemployment hearings lost because the worksite employer never obtained a signed handbook acknowledgment from the employee and was therefore unable to prove that the employee was knowingly in the wrong. Even if the employee is under the influence of drugs or alcohol on the job, for example, it could be difficult for the employer to win a claim if there’s no signed acknowledgment of a handbook that includes a drug-free workplace policy.


Landmine 3: Playing favorites (or not so favorites)

People are different. They have different life situations, different needs, and different duties at their jobs. 

The handbook policy needs to be enforced on a case-by-case basis, and what’s good for one employee may not apply to the next. But there’s a subtle line the employer should not cross; the line where individualized assessment becomes discriminatory behavior. 

If one employee must take a post-injury drug screen because they seem less trustworthy, but then the next employee doesn’t take a drug screen because their accident didn’t seem severe, you’ve just crossed the line into discriminatory behavior. Their courses of treatment and return to work plans may differ, but the core rules should be universally applied.


Landmine 4: Micromanaging every move

It can be tricky to know how just much detail to apply to some policies without crossing the line into micromanaging. 

A harassment policy, for example, needs to be very specific in the definition of harassment, what to do when it happens, who to report it to, how and when to report it, and additional points of contact if the first one isn’t immediately available. A handbook policy that dictates every moment of the employee’s day, though, is a step too far. 

If you feel the need to get too detailed in areas that shouldn’t need it, use it as an opportunity to review your company’s employee lifecycle from the beginning. Make sure that you have the right candidate screening, interview questions, background checks, orientation and training programs, ongoing education, open communication, and management support to ensure that you are hiring the right people for your company and following the best practices to not only avoid legal trouble but help your company thrive.


Landmine 5: Violating the NLRA

There are several areas where your company policies could run afoul of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), whether your company is unionized or not. 

Every company should avoid these policies in particular:

  • Policies against discussing pay. According to the NLRA, employees discussing pay amongst themselves, including disclosure of their own pay rates, is a protected activity and cannot be punishable. 
  • Policies against complaining. Even if the statement is laced with profanity, employees have NLRA protection when speaking about wages, benefits, or other working conditions, especially those that may compromise worker safety.
  • Policies banning all social media. Although we wish employees would not complain about our companies in a public forum such as Facebook or Glassdoor, we can’t prohibit them from doing so. Unless the post is pure slander or giving away confidential trade secrets, an employee’s right to post their opinions online is considered protected concerted activity. Nextep has a carefully crafted social media policy that protects the company as well as the employee’s rights.


Landmine 6: Stomping on civil rights

Just as you don’t want to violate an employee’s rights under NLRA, you also shouldn’t violate the rights they are afforded under the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). 

Most companies are familiar with setting nondiscriminatory policies such as equal pay for equal work and the interactive process of determining reasonable accommodations for employees with disabilities, but there are some areas that may unintentionally encroach upon the EEOC. 

A hygiene policy, for example, could discriminate against employees who have certain medical conditions, eat strong-smelling food from their nations of origin, or can’t afford to buy new clothes. A dress code that bans hats could violate the rights of employees who wear turbans for religious reasons. 

Employee handbooks can be a challenge, but that’s what Nextep’s HR experts are here for! We eat handbooks for breakfast, lunch, and dessert and are happy to add yours to the plate. Contact us to learn more about how we can help you.

Also on Nextep

Get the low down on how to handle pay correctly. Should you pay your employees for working during lunch? Yes.  Easy answer! Right? Well, no. Though the simple answer is an emphatic yes, it’s a bit more nuanced.  The topic of lunch and compensable time can be tricky. There are many ways an employee could […]
Read more
An employee’s first day at a new job can set the tone for the working relationship going forward. In fact, according to research by Brandon Hall Group, organizations with a strong onboarding process can improve new hire retention by 82% and productivity by more than 70%. Though the employee may feel stressed or nervous, the […]
Read more
Your company policies and values are only as good as the leaders implementing them. Get your leadership team on board, make sure they’re living out your company values, and support them to ensure they get the help they need to lead well. “Half of workers who quit their jobs say they left because of their […]
Read more
…And what you should ask instead Say you’re recruiting top talent for your company and find a few excellent candidates. When it’s time for the job interview, you smile, shake hands (or wave hello over Zoom), and sit down for a productive conversation. Your first question is a softball to help warm them up: “Have […]
Read more
How often do you get the chance to expand beyond your current retention or recruiting strategies? It’s common for managers to get stuck in the daily work routine and overlook the growth opportunities their employees want. That neglect may mean a greater chance of talented employees leaving in the short run. Around 48% of employees […]
Read more
We all know the importance of regular physicals and check-ups, but when was the last time you checked in on your mental health? May is Mental Health Awareness month, serving as a good reminder of how crucial a healthy mind is in the overall map of our wellbeing. This list and infographic can get you […]
Read more
If you’ve made it to this blog on leadership training, chances are you’ve spent some time with us the last couple of months as we dove into turning The Great Resignation into The Great Retention.  So far, we’ve covered flexibility, DEI, employee growth, pay, employee engagement, and benefits. While each of these is important, when […]
Read more
It’s no surprise benefits are one of the top reasons for employees staying with a company or going elsewhere. The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) study shows that 36% of employees leave for better benefits. Employee retention can be daunting, but we’re here to break it down! Therefore, we’re talking today about benefits. We’ll look […]
Read more
Employee engagement is a crucial piece of the recruiting and retaining top talent puzzle. When it comes to employee engagement, few people in Nextep can speak more authoritatively on the subject than our very own Director of Happiness, Tracey Hixon. To help you get started, Tracey answers some questions about how to retain employees by […]
Read more
In our employee retention series, we’ve talked about flexibility, employee growth, and diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). Now, let’s look at another topic that has a massive impact on attracting and retaining top talent: pay! The Great Resignation and the impacts of an ongoing pandemic have long-lasting effects. As a result, employees are evaluating their […]
Read more
Now is the time for employers to carefully review any arbitration or employment agreements they have in place. On March 3, 2022, President Biden signed the Ending Forced Arbitration of Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment Act (HR 4445).  In cases of sexual assault or harassment in the workplace, many employers ask employees to sign arbitration […]
Read more
How often do you get the chance to expand beyond your current retention or recruiting strategies? It’s common for managers to get stuck in the daily work routine and overlook the growth opportunities their employees want. That neglect may mean a greater chance of talented employees leaving in the short run. Around 48% of employees […]
Read more

Download Our App