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HR Basics 102: Be Handy With Your Handbook

Posted by Frank Steinberg | Aug 11, 2009 | 0 Comments

This second installment in our August series on HR basics deals with the subject of employee handbooks.

Here are questions about handbooks that you should be asking yourself during your late summer HR self-evaluation.

  • If I have one, when was it last reviewed for currency?
  • If I don't have one, do I need one?
  • How much should the handbook cover?  Does mine cover everything it should?
  • Does it cover too much?
  • Have I published a sexual harassment policy?  If not, should I?
  • Do I need an internet use policy?
  • How about a personal e-mail policy?
  • Does our handbook reflect our company's culture and way of doing business?  Or have we jammed our requirements into someone else's template for reasons of cost or convenience?

The short answers, with links back to some of our prior posts:

  1. Employment law changes fast.  You should have your handbook reviewed annually.
  2. Yes, if you don't have one, you probably should.
  3. As for coverage, the "3 bears theory" applies.  Not too much, not too little, but just right.
  4. A sexual harassment policy, properly implemented, is some of the cheapest lawsuit insurance you can buy.  Yes, you need it.
  5. An internet use policy?  Probably, depending upon the nature of your business.
  6. A personal e-mail policy?  Unless you want to allow your employees free access, yes, you need a policy.
  7. Work off of someone else's form?  We don't recommend it.  Your handbook is a tool to help your business run better.  It should reflect your way of doing business.

We end with this warning from a prior post.  I know that it seems self-serving, but ignore it at your peril.

As with most things related to employment law in NJ, we offer this advice: don't try to create a policy [or handbook!] by yourself.  Find a NJ lawyer who knows employment law and get some help.  There's simply too much at stake for your business to run the risk of a homemade job.  And canned forms are dangerous because a good policy needs to fit the requirements of your particular business as much as it needs to fit the law.

One final caution: don't think that because you have just a few employees that you don't need this protection.  Even if you're too small to be covered by the federal anti-discrimination laws, you are subject to the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination [LAD]. 

Next: those pesky posting requirements.

About the Author

Frank Steinberg

Frank is the founder and principal of Steinberg Law, LLC. A Jersey boy born and bred, he focuses on employment litigation and counseling, business litigation,  and aviation law. Following law school and a clerkship in the federal district court Frank spent his early career with large litigation ...

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