As an employer, you have the legal right to establish an operational policy for your business and employees. However, with this authority, there is a legal process by which these policies must be executed. When there is a mistake in the development and execution of this process, there are legal ramifications.
Only What Is Written Matters
A policy handbook must be all-inclusive. In terms of legality, you can only enforce a policy that you have included in writing. If it is not there, it is not valid. For this reason, you should take the time to draft, re-check, and then re-check the policy changes to ensure they include all of your expectations. It is important that you sit down with an attorney to discuss the changes you want to input and to ensure that you provide this information, conclusively.
Clear Language Is Important
Second to the importance of being all-inclusive, it is equally important that the verbiage used to outline the new policy changes be understandable by people who do not have a law degree. Consequently, you must be precise in terms of your language to ensure that you do not run into any potential pitfalls. For instance, if the language is unclear, an employee may have legal grounds to declare that they did not understand the terms, in the event you attempt to discipline them based on the hard-to-understand guidelines in the policy.
Consistent Execution Is Essential
It is one thing to have the information included within the policy handbook, particularly when it comes to disciplinary actions. However, the potential for serious problems arises when employers are selective in terms of when they execute the policies in the handbook and when they do not. If the language is in the policy, the execution of this information must be consistent. Any instances where some employees are held to higher standards than others open the door to legal action against the company.
Disclaimers Provide Protection
In the same manner that you include information about what the expectations are for employees who work for the company, you should also include language about what their employment does not guarantee. Known in the legal realm as disclaimers, these statements outline employment limitations. For example, if your company is operated out of an at-will employment state, you should include a disclaimer that certifies this distinction to ensure the company has the right to terminate employment at any time.
Before making any changes to your operational or employee policies, it is best to consult an employment attorney to ensure the changes are on the right side of the law. Contact an employment attorney for more information.