Business Owners: Protect Your Venture and Prevent Litigation with an Employee Manual

I’m sure it happens but any business that operates without having an employee manual in place is risking a law suit along with an unproductive workforce.

We all know how easy and quickly people can misinterpret almost anything. In almost all cases people will interpret something to their advantage, or draw upon their own understanding which is based on their experiences.

If I were to ask a group of ten people how many times a person could call in sick prior to being held accountable I would get ten different answers. Most likely the answers would range from as much as they need to several times.

Without having an employee manual that establishes your attendance policy you will be leaving it up to your staff to guess what is ok. Worse, then you will have to handle every situation based what’s going on at the time. This will leave you wide open to being accused of favoritism which will lead to an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) claim for discrimination.

Yes you can bank on the idea that if you treat one person one way and another differently someone is going to cry foul, which will translate into discrimination. Let’s say you discipline someone over forty for too many sick days and not someone under forty for missing the same amount you are setting yourself up for age discrimination.

Just having an employee manual that clearly defines your attendance policy does not let you off the hook. You then have to apply your policy fairly and consistently. This becomes the hardest part for many supervisors since they try to add into the mix that one person performs better so they are given more chances. This is a formula for a very large law suit.

Other topics that should be included in your employee manual are, tardiness, theft, use of company property, use of cell phones, breaks, vacation time, benefits of any type, performance reviews, progressive discipline process, family medical leave act, discrimination, sexual harassment, disrespectful behavior, insubordination, use of company computers, and anything else that will pertain to your employees that can be misunderstood.

Let’s take sexual harassment as another example. Federal and state laws mandate that you inform your employees what they should do if they are sexually harassed. As an example your policy may be that anyone believing they have been sexually harassed are to contact their supervisor immediately. Anyone that has been sexually harassed by a supervisor should contact the next higher level manager in the company. This is just an example and would need much more information to make it crystal clean. Point is that if you are challenged with a sexual harassment law suit the very first thing they will ask for is your policy on it. Be ready when they do.

The employee manual is much like a set of rules that everyone must play by. If everyone follows the rules the workplace is a very nice place to be. If they don’t you have a way to manage the process so that the behavior stops.

Thank you and May God Bless You!

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