Avoid the Top 10 Mistakes in an Employee Handbook

Posted by on April 27, 2011 at 6:14 pm.

Poorly written handbooks can open up your organization to countless lawsuits.  A few of the trouble areas are the ADA, FLSA, sexual harassment and harassment, racial and gender discrimination.  Audit your employee handbook with these 10 common errors in mind.


Avoid the Top 10 Mistakes in an Employee Handbook

A poorly written, outdated or inconsistent employee handbook can hurt your organization.  If this is the case, it is as if you don’t even have a handbook in the first place.  For instance, many organizations include inconsistent language that wipes out the “at-will” policy where an employer is able to discharge an employee for “good cause, or bad cause, or no cause at all” and the employee is able to quit or end the employment relationship for any reason as well.

Here are the top 10 Mistakes to avoid:

  1. Adopting a form handbook – Cut and pasting a handbook you found online may seem great at the moment but if it doesn’t specifically address your organizations needs, you could be setting yourself for trouble.
  2. Including lots of detail – When writing an employee handbook, stick to specific policies and procedures.  Excess language creates material for lawyers for potential lawsuits.
  3. Mentioning an employee probationary period – A probationary period can erase the “at-will” status by implying that once the probationary period is over, employment is indefinite.
  4. Being too specific in your disciplinary process/policy – Obviously, you can’t list every infraction that would be considered inappropriate behavior.
  5. Not being consistent – Ensure consistency amongst other policies and procedures throughout the organization.
  6. Overlooking an at-will disclaimer – Ensure that your employees understand the “at-will” disclaimer by signing an acknowledgement for this disclaimer plus include an acknowledgement for receiving, reading and understanding the handbook.
  7. Not adapting the handbook to accommodate to the Federal and State laws that cover your organization (as noted in #1).
  8.  Failing to update or review – The employee handbook should be reviewed (and updated if need be) annually and reissued to employees to ensure awareness by all employees.
  9. Setting unrealistic policies – If there are policies that are too cumbersome or confusing (which is a guarantee your supervisors won’t be able to enforce), take another look at these policies.
  10. Hold an employee meeting – Employee meetings are a great way to reinforce the employee handbook and specific policies and procedures.  These meetings can be annually, semi-annually, quarterly, etc.

If you need assistance with writing one policy or reviewing your employee handbook, please contact Mindi Brenner today!

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