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While employee handbooks are not required by law, they can prove essential — especially for small business owners that can't afford to lose a harassment or discrimination lawsuit. The employee handbook has become an essential tool in the employer’s arsenal to defend against liability for employment decisions.

For example, an employer being sued for harassment needs to be able to show that it is committed to a harassment-free workplace and that a complaint procedure is available to employees. Those policies and procedures should be clearly defined — and identifiable in court — in your employee manual.

What's more, a well-written manual can help an employer defend against unlawful termination claims by reinforcing the company's "at will" status. Employee handbooks can preserve your right to hire — and fire — at will.
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Here are seven elements your employee manual must include:

Accommodation of disabilities: Provide employees with notice of their rights to reasonable accommodation of ADA disabilities, as well as procedures for requesting an accommodation.

References: Identify who is authorized to provide references regarding current and former employees, and specify the kind of information that will be disclosed.

FMLA: Employers with 50 or more employees must incorporate a Family and Medical Leave Act policy into their employee handbooks.

Sick, personal and vacation time: Clearly state whether employees will be paid for accrued but unused time, as well as any conditions on such payments.

Progressive discipline: Create a broadly worded list of employee conduct and work rules, as well as a summary of offenses.

E-mail/technology: Expressly reserve your right to monitor and intercept e-mail, voice mail and other electronic communication.

Employee benefits: If the handbook describes benefits provided to employees, it also should include an express disclaimer stating that the handbook contains only a brief description of the various benefits plans.
The Do-It-Yourself Employee Manual includes a CD that allows you to customize and print out your very own company employee manual! Create a customized employee handbook that suits your company's needs.

Have employees sign off

To preserve the "at-will" status of employees whom you may hire and fire at will, include provisions in the handbook that say employment is at will and that nothing in the handbook should be considered a contract or guarantee of employment. Document employees' agreement to this by having them sign and return an acknowledgment form.

Finally, make sure your staff, especially supervisors, know the handbook and follow its provisions. The best-written policy in the world isn't enough if your actions don't back it up.

This how-to binder helps you build a customized, legal employee manual for your company. Print out and distribute your personalized manual to every employee.

The Do-It-Yourself Employee Manual walks you through how to craft a policy in all of the most crucial employment areas:
    book cover
  • Company Information
  • The Work Environment
  • Code of Conduct
  • Workday Rules & Procedures
  • Time Off
  • Employment & Hiring Policies
  • Compensation
  • Benefits
  • Safety & Health

Get this customizable binder and CD...

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