Now may be a good time to review your employee handbook for potential big trouble.
Employee handbooks are extremely important legal tools. A handbook documents your policies, builds trust and helps you comply with federal and state laws. It even allows you to prepare favorable evidence ahead of time in case you are hit with a lawsuit.
But a handbook can work against you if it's poorly written, outdated, inconsistent with the way your company operates or gives employees the impression that it's an employment contract.
The problem: Because handbooks spell out policies that apply to many or all employees, they can be used to justify escalating a simple lawsuit into a class-action suit.
To help you avoid such a disaster, nationally recognized author, educator and attorney Anniken Davenport has updated her popular interactive audio conference Employee Handbooks: 12 Common Mistakes & How to Fix Them.
Pay particular attention to any company policies that require employees to:
- Complete end-of-shift work in an unreasonably short time frame.
- Attend mandatory training, open houses or staff meetings without pay.
- Reimburse the company for training costs if they resign before a certain amount of time has passed.
These policies potentially expose you to claims involving unpaid time, which could run afoul of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and your state's minimum wage law.
During the fast-paced 75-minute recording of Employee Handbooks: 12 Common Mistakes & How to Fix Them, you'll discover:
- Up-to-the-minute HR changes
- What NEVER to tell an employee after probation
- How to avoid "the accidental contract"
- Handbook errors that will get you creamed in court
- Things a handbook should be — and things it SHOULDN'T
Case in Point: Nicole Williams had worked for the child care chain Le Chaperon Rouge for only six months when she filed FLSA and Ohio Minimum Wage Act complaints alleging overtime and minimum-wage violations. She showed the judge a copy of the employee handbook, arguing that some of the policies were proof that all hourly employees should be added to her lawsuit.
One policy allowed just five minutes to clean the classrooms at the end of the day. Another required employees to attend open houses and staff meetings without pay. A third policy stated that employees had to pay for their training if they quit before their one-year anniversary.
Based on the handbook, the judge ordered the case to proceed as a class action, since the policies in it showed many employees were potentially underpaid. (Williams v. Le Chaperon Rouge, No. 1:07-CV-829, NDOH, 2007)
Final note: Consider having an attorney review any policy that encourages or mandates unpaid time.
Discover the pitfalls hidden in your employee handbook ... and how to fix them!
Employee Handbooks: 12 Common Mistakes & How to Fix Them
- How to apply FLSA's administrative exemption
- Spot signs of 'checked out' employees
- One less tune for whistle-blowers to play: Sarbanes-Oxley Act trumps Colorado common law
- If you discover wrongdoing after the fact, you can use it in court to justify termination
- Fighting a Union Campaign: What Employers Can and Can't Do