When you are preparing or revising an employee handbook, this checklist may behelpful.

Acknowledgment

  • Do employees sign a signature page, confirming they receivedthe handbook?
  • On the signature page, do employees agree to follow thepolicies in the handbook?
  • Does the signature page state that this handbook replaces anyprevious versions?
  • On the signature page, do employees agree that they will be“at-will” employees?
  • Do employees agree that the employer may change its policies inthe future?

Related: 10 mistakes to avoid in your employeehandbook

Wage and hour issues

  • Does the employer confirm that it will pay employees for allhours worked?
  • Before employees work overtime, are they required to obtain asupervisor's approval?
  • During unpaid breaks, are employees completely relieved of allduties? (For example, while a receptionist takes an unpaid lunchbreak, this person shouldn't be required to greet visitors oranswer phone calls.)
  • Are employees paid when they attend a business meeting duringlunch?
  • Are employees paid for attending in-service trainings?
  • Are employees paid while they take short breaks?

Paid Time Off

  • Has the employer considered combining vacation time, sick time,and personal time into one “bucket” of paid time off?
  • Does the paid time off policy line up with the employer'sbusiness objectives? (For example, does it provide incentives foremployees to use paid time off during seasons when business isslower?)
  • Does the handbook say what will happen to paid time off whenemployment ends? (In Pennsylvania, employers are not required topay terminated employees for the value of their paid time off. Someemployers choose to do this, as an incentive for employees to giveat least two weeks' notice.)
  • If the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) applies tothe employer, does the handbook inform employees of theirrights?
  • Does the handbook list all types of leave that are available?(For example, does the employer offer bereavement leave? How aboutleave while an employee serves as a juror or witness? What aboutmunicipal laws that provide certain types of leave, such as paidsick leave?)

Reasonable accommodations

  • How should employees request a reasonable accommodation?
  • Does the employer permit employees with disabilities to bringservice animals to work (Employers should avoid blanket policiesthat ban all animals.)
  • May employees deviate from grooming and uniform requirementsfor a religious reason, or a medical reason? (For example, anemployee may have a religious reason to wear a headscarf, even ifthe employer has a blanket policy that would otherwise prohibitthis.)

Discrimination and retaliation

  • Does the employer inform employees that they are protectedagainst discrimination and retaliation?
  • Is there an accurate list of protected categories? (Confirm alllocations where the employer does business. Some states ormunicipalities may provide employees with greater protection thanfederal law. Are there any categories, such as sexual orientation,that the employer should add?)
  • Do employees have a clear way to report discrimination andretaliation?
  • Is there more than one way to report discrimination andretaliation? (In other words, employees shouldn't be required tomake a report to the same person who they believe is committingacts of discrimination.)

Restrictive covenants/trade secrets

  • Are employees required to keep the employer's informationconfidential?
  • Do employees confirm they are not subject to any restrictivecovenants (such as non-compete agreements) that would limit theirability to work for the employer?
  • Are employees prohibited from giving the employer confidentialinformation that belongs to a previous employer?

Labor law issues

  • If employees belong to a union, does the employer state that itdoesn't intend for the handbook to conflict with any collectivebargaining agreement?
  • Does the employer have a content-neutral policy on solicitingand distributing materials in the workplace? (In general, if anemployer wants to limit union-related communications, the employermust apply the same rules to solicitations which don't involve aunion.)
  • Does the handbook accurately reflect whether employees may wearunion-related apparel, such as hats, buttons, T-shirts andlanyards?
  • Are employees permitted to discuss their wages with each other?(Some employers try to prohibit this, but the National LaborRelations Act entitles employees to discuss their wages with eachother. This rule applies to all employers—whether or not they havea union.)

Other

  • If the employer has a progressive discipline policy, does theemployer reserve the right to deviate from this policy?
  • Does the employer reserve the right to inspect companycomputers and email accounts?
  • Does the employer have a social media policy, or a medicalmarijuana policy?
  • If the employer has other policies, how do they fit togetherwith the handbook? (Does it make sense to incorporate the policiesinto the handbook? Or, should the handbook clarify which otherpolicies will remain in effect?)
  • Does the handbook contain any provisions that the employer isunlikely to enforce? (For example, does the handbook prohibitemployees from using all social media? Does it prohibit employeesfrom talking on the phone while driving?)

Brian D. Lipkinis an associate with the Pittsburgh law firm of Babst Calland.He advises employers on employment and labor law, and representsclients in commercial litigation. Contact him at 412-394-5456 or[email protected].

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