Just the facts, ma'am.
Your employee handbook should clearly state your organization's rules and benefits without including any excess or superfluous language. If you embellish the document with needless explanations, you may end up eating your words.
Especially troublesome: handbook statements that explain why employees are entitled to certain benefits. The following case illustrates the confusion that results when handbook language seems to expand a benefit's scope.
Recent case: David Johnson and his wife both worked for the University of Iowa. When his wife became pregnant, Johnson read the employee manual, which said she was eligible for six weeks of paid maternity leave while he wasn't eligible at all.
However, that policy also included a "Purpose" section that stated: "Purpose: to permit parents who have caregiving responsibilities to have time off to spend with a child."
Johnson sued, alleging that the university discriminated against biological fathers. He argued that he served as a "caregiver" and the handbook's purpose statement meant that the policy should apply equally to men and women.
Build the 9 necessary sections of your employee manual. Access an updating schedule, disclaimer language and a 25-point checklist. Customize this framework to meet your needs...The court tossed out his case, saying it was OK to offer different benefits to women who went through childbirth. But the court did note that it was "troubled" because the policy language did seem to run counter to the "purpose" language in the same policy. (Johnson v. University of Iowa, No. 05-1184, 8th)
Final tips: This employer could have avoided the lawsuit by making its preface material match the actual policy. If paid maternity leave is meant to allow an employee to recover, say so.
If the policy is to allow bonding time, don't exclude the biological father. Even better, you can avoid such conflicts by leaving such preface material out of your handbook.
The Do-It-Yourself Employee Manual solves so many HR problems that employers face, explaining:
But the Do-It-Yourself Employee Manual doesn’t just tell you how to keep your employees in line. It includes a CD that allows you to customize and print out your very own company employee manual! Give your personalized manual to every employee, and you’ll have the ammunition you need to defend yourself in court – or even better, to send the message that it’s not worth suing you. Order your copy today!
- At-will employment and your iron-clad right to terminate an employee with or without cause … if you follow these exact steps.
- Your right to require pre-employment drug testing and random drug testing thereafter … under these circumstances.
- Employee classification: full-time, part-time, exempt, nonexempt … you can prevent wage-and-hour lawsuits and allocate benefits appropriately.
- Plain-English compensation policies, including your obligations for overtime, vacations, sick pay and severance … when are you on the hook, and when is an employee exaggerating the law?
- Keeping it professional and respectful: sexual harassment and discrimination policies.
- How to manage leaves of absence: personal, pregnancy, disability, military, jury duty and family/medical … without breaking your budget.
- General safety rules – common-sense rules and the ones you can’t believe are your legal obligations. Plus, your responsibility in the event of a crisis.
- And much more...
- How to Fire an Employee the Legal Way: 6 Termination Guidelines
- 10 Secrets to an Effective Performance Review
- Don't ignore lawsuits! No-Show means automatic lossâ€”And court-Ordered damages
- Call your attorney ASAP when employee complaints involve union representation
- Can individual employees be liable for FMLA violations? 4th Circuit may decide
- Be careful when altering pregnant worker's pay