With the proliferation and increased enforcement of employment laws today, almost all employers need to have an employee handbook to protect their business in the event of a relevant legal issue. Unfortunately, many employee handbooks are missing key components necessary for business protection. Below are five important policies that are frequently missing or out-of-date in employee handbooks:
1. Updated FMLA policy.
If your company is covered by the FMLA (50 or more employees within a 75-mile range), your handbook needs to have an updated FMLA policy. The Department of Labor now requires employers to include the FMLA notice poster in their handbooks or incorporate all the provisions that are found in this poster in their handbook policies. Many, if not most, employers have yet to include this information and thus are putting their ability to enforce various provisions of the FMLA in jeopardy. An easy remedy is to simply include the actual poster, which can be found at http://www.dol.gov/whd/regs/compliance/posters/fmla.htm
, or utilize a Warner policy that incorporates all of this information without including the poster.
2. FLSA Safe Harbor Policy.
If an employer makes an impermissible deduction from an exempt employee’s pay, the employer may have unwittingly jeopardized the employee’s exempt status and could be obligated to pay years’ worth of back overtime and penalties. Accordingly, all employers should have an FLSA safe harbor policy which requests that employees report all deductions they think are improper, requires the company to investigate and promptly reimburse an impermissible deduction, takes steps to ensure that improper deductions are not made in the future and states that the company will not retaliate against the employee for making such a complaint. If the handbook has this policy, the employer can rectify an impermissible deduction without losing the employee’s exempt status. If a handbook does not have this policy, an employer may not be allowed to correct its error without incurring substantial liability.
4. Employee Authorization for E-mail and Internet Monitoring.
Many employee handbooks now contain policies which state that the employer can monitor an employee’s Internet and e-mail use. Most of these same handbooks, however, do not include a specific employee authorization within the employee acknowledgment. Such an authorization will give an employer greater protection should it have to use an employee’s e-mail or Internet history in a subsequent legal action.
5. Shortened Statute of Limitations.
In Michigan, many courts will enforce a shortened statute of limitations period if an employee specifically consents to it. This consent is often contained in the employment application, but it is a good idea to also include it in the handbook and/or employee acknowledgment.
Check your employee handbook to make sure all of these provisions are included. If any are missing or your handbook is due for a review and update, please contact any member of Warner’s labor and employment team.