April is Stress Awareness Month. Let SHRM make your work life easier: Join Now
Shawn Premer shows how doing the right thing for employees leads to positive business results.
Is your employee handbook keeping up with the changing world of work? With SHRM's Employee Handbook Builder get peace of mind that your handbook is up-to-date.
Build competencies, establish credibility and advance your career—while earning PDCs—at SHRM Seminars in 12 cities across the U.S. this spring.
#SHRM18 will expand your perspective – on your organization, on your career, and on the way you approach HR. Join us in Chicago June 17-20, 2018
Members may download one copy of our sample forms and templates for your personal use within your organization. Please note that all such forms and policies should be reviewed by your legal counsel for compliance with applicable law, and should be modified to suit your organization’s culture, industry, and practices. Neither members nor non-members may reproduce such samples in any other way (e.g., to republish in a book or use for a commercial purpose) without SHRM’s permission. To request permission for specific items, click on the “reuse permissions” button on the page where you find the item.
SAN DIEGO—What you don’t include in your employee handbook can hurt you—or at least leave you vulnerable to an employee lawsuit, according to Allan H. Weitzman, a partner and head of the employment law team at Proskaur Rose in Boca Raton, Fla.
And that’s true even though most workers aren’t on the lookout for ways to rip off their employer or exploit their company’s good will.
Speaking here June 28, 2010, at the Society for Human Resource Management’s 62nd Annual Conference & Exposition, Weitzman urged organizations to use their employee handbooks as a shield against slackers and malcontents whose efforts to rip off their employer, in the absence of a carefully crafted policy guide, would otherwise go unfettered.
The first rule of writing an effective policy guide, according to Weitzman, is to disabuse employees of any notion that it is an employment contract or that any of the benefits spelled out are guaranteed.
“Make sure your handbook is not an employment contract,” he said.
Under certain conditions, handbooks might “create an implied contract of employment,” he warned. To minimize risk, he recommended that employers eliminate any language that might be perceived as creating rights against termination at will.
Many employment policies are governed by state and federal laws. But even in instances where bottom-line requirements are legislated, Weitzman urges employers to use the handbook to spell out the specifics of rules governing such things as:
Although employers in some jurisdictions are prohibited from denying employees access to their employment records, Weitzman urged employers not restricted by such laws to keep employee records under wraps. If managers know that employees might be allowed to view evaluations and other employment documents, they might not be honest, he admonished. In addition, when employees see something they don’t like, they will challenge it and start a potentially endless cycle of rebuttals, he said.
He urged employees to put specific dollar caps on reimbursement policies. A policy suggesting that employees can be reimbursed for “reasonable” costs is open to wide interpretation and could leave a company open to paying more than intended, he warned.
Still, employee handbooks are an appropriate place to describe policies designed to assist employees—even where the policy is simply to follow the minimum required under law.
Rita Zeidner is a senior writer for HR Magazine.
You have successfully saved this page as a bookmark.
Please confirm that you want to proceed with deleting bookmark.
You have successfully removed bookmark.
Please log in as a SHRM member before saving bookmarks.
Please sign in as a SHRM member before saving bookmarks.
Please purchase a SHRM membership before saving bookmarks.
An error has occurred
Recommended for you
CA Resources at Your Fingertips
SHRM’s HR Vendor Directory contains over 3,200 companies