3 Handbook Policies You Need To Keep You Out Of Trouble

Handbook Policies
Handbook Policies

Making your first few hires as a small business owner is a big deal. On the one hand, each successive hire opens up new opportunities for you to delegate work, focus on strategic tasks, and add complementary expertise to your business. On the other hand, there is the time-consuming and difficult responsibility of managing people and shaping your company’s internal environment.

One of the smartest moves you can make to help your business run smoothly and avoid future conflicts is to define your organization’s policies and procedures early on. You’ll want to consider every aspect of your relationship with your employees thoughtfully. 

For example:  At what time do you want them to report to work by, and for how long? What is work-appropriate behavior (and what’s not)?  How will you manage their complaints? What benefits will you offer them?  How will you measure their performance?  

As a best practice, you should have a formalized handbook in place by the time your company grows to 15 employees. Several federal and state laws, such as Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964,  The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, and the Age Discrimination Act of 1967, apply to organizations with 15 or more employees.  

Many basic handbook templates are available for download online, and while they offer a great starting point, you will need to adapt them to reflect your current employment practices. They will also need to be updated regularly for current events and the changing environment. 

Incomplete, ambiguous, or vague policies can be misinterpreted and used against you in an employment claim. 

As you begin to formulate your employee handbook, we offer you three key policies that can help keep you out of trouble.

Employment at Will

The term “Employment-at-Will” means that either the employee or the employer has the right to terminate the employment relationship at any time, and for any reason. This policy is one of the most important policies to include in the handbook as it provides employers with some very important legal protections against lawsuits. The policy should also make clear that nothing in the handbook changes the at-will relationship. If the company has hired (or plans to hire) contract-based employees, then this policy may also include the name of the person(s) who is solely authorized to enter into employment contracts on behalf of the company. This would typically be the highest-ranking member of the organization (e.g., CEO, President, or Executive Director).

Equal Opportunity, Anti-discrimination and Harassment

Anti-discrimination policies affirm the organization’s commitment to providing a work environment that is free from discrimination, and harassment, based on race, color, religion, sex (pregnancy, sexual orientation, gender identity), national origin, age, disability, genetic information, citizenship, veteran status. (Note: Some states have additional protected classes).

Employee Handbook Acknowledgment and Receipt

The handbook acknowledgment form provides documentation and evidence that the employees are aware of and understand workplace rules. It is a crucial piece of documentation if there are ever disputes or disciplinary issues. 

Our team at Amy Cell Talent has worked with many small business leaders to identify missing, incomplete, outdated, or otherwise problematic handbook policies. Our goal is to ensure that our clients' risks are minimized; policies and procedures are legally defensible, and relevant to the employee experience. T

Let us know how we can help! Book an appointment to discuss your HR or recruiting needs, or feel free to reach out at (734) 747-2936 to schedule a conversation about building better teams for your organization!


About The Author: Sonja Parkinson

Top talent sourcer, HR consultant, and municipal search advisor. Passionate about helping clients meet their hiring goals and leading her team to the charge.

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