Employee handbooks can often open a legal can of worms for employers. There are some tips, though, that can help the employer from making unnecessary promises.
Nancy Joerg, Esq of Wessels Sherman Joerg Liszka Laverty Seneczko, PC has written an article concerning employee handbooks and some of the do’s and don’ts associated with them. Her perspective is that employees should keep the handbook “lean and mean” giving management the most flexibility in exercising its management prerogative. Generally, employers are not legally required to cover most areas in a handbook except issues like th Family and Medical Leave Act. They can use their own discretion on the content of the manual. The article stresses that too much detail in an employee handbook can be constituted as promises that can come back later to bite the employer. An example of an unnecessary promise is to promise that your company’s wages are competitive with others in the industry. Another unnecessary promise is to promise to do everything possible to give notice of any changes in employee benefits. Also, don’t have a detailed discipline policy. Instead, give examples of unacceptable behavior that will lead to discipline, but then say the company will use it discretion to determine the severity of the discipline (up to and including termination). The focus of a broader manual with fewer specific promises is what the article is trying to convey. To read it in its entirety, go to Employee Handbooks: Delete unnecessary promises.