What well-intentioned document sitting patiently on your shelf
How a Dusty, Yellowed Binder
Dear HR Professional,
It’s not easy to be a human resources professional when your most important tool – your employee handbook – is turned against you. Consider what happened to my young friend Lindsay in her first job as a new HR Management grad …
At the end of her third-round interview, her new boss Alan shook her hand to welcome her aboard. Then he said something that made her pause: “We’re really looking forward to your making this place run more professionally!”
What did that mean?, Lindsay wondered. How bad is it?
The following Monday morning, she found out.
Dear old Myrna was a doll. She brought the photos of her grandkids back out of the cardboard packing boxes to show Lindsay. She waved vaguely at the file cabinets and binders crowding the small office, explaining what the job would entail.
And she signed for a very official-looking brown envelope that Lindsay could see was “From the Law Offices of …” Myrna reminisced with the courier and gave him a warm good-bye hug.
Lindsay picked up the brown envelope and showed it to Myrna. “I wonder what this is,” she said carefully.
Myrna frowned. “We keep getting those. They want some kind of documents about an employee who left, and I keep sending them things, but then they ask for more.” And Myrna moved on to more pleasant topics, like where the tea and hot chocolate were stored and which nearby sandwich shop was best.
After the “Good-Bye, Myrna; Welcome, Lindsay!” lunch, finally alone in the dark little room, a worried Lindsay cleared a little space on the desk and opened the brown envelope.
A lawsuit. They were being sued.
Calm down, Lindsay told herself. After taking a deep breath and collecting her thoughts, she started rummaging through the boxes and drawers.
Toward quitting time, Alan stuck his head in the door. “How’s it going? Not too overwhelming, I hope?”
“Well, we have a problem,” Lindsay said briskly. “We’re being sued for hostile work environment and wrongful discharge of a longtime employee named Raymond Davis.” She was about to ask if Alan knew about the lawsuit, but his shocked expression told her he did not. “I’ve found three copies of his employee application from 1981 but nothing about his progressive discipline or the circumstances under which he left. Oh, and I found this.”
She showed him a yellowed binder. Its spine declared “Employee Handbook” and its title page was dated 1990. “Is there anything more recent?”
Alan took the binder from her, turning it over for examination as if it were an artifact. “No, I don’t give out the handbook anymore. Too many confusing things in there that I didn’t feel comfortable trying to explain.”
Alan met Lindsay’s steady gaze. “We have a problem, don’t we?”
“Yes, I think we do,” she replied.
In the next weeks, Lindsay learned fast about her new company. Financially, it appeared sound, which was a miracle considering the personnel violations she saw everywhere.
Lindsay asked Alan to tell her about the day Raymond Davis left the company. Alan said that Ray had been late bringing the truck in at closing time, and Alan smelled some kind of fruity alcohol on Ray’s breath, again. They got into a big yelling fight about drinking on the job and Alan told him to clean out his locker and not come back. Alan had felt bad in the weeks following, considering how long he’d known Ray, but too many employees had been abusing Alan’s goodwill and he’d had enough.
“So, the employee handbook says that disciplinary actions go from verbal warnings to written warnings. I’m guessing that didn’t happen with Ray, is that right?”
“No,” said Alan bleakly. “That’s not how it went.”
Soon enough, Alan and Lindsay had a much better understanding of how it went with Ray. It turned out Ray had a medical condition that affected his metabolism – that’s where the fruity breath came from. The medical condition put him in a protected class.
It was all a big legal mess, for sure, and the company lawyers were working overtime.
As the weeks and then months of legal wrangling dragged by, Lindsay set her sights on straightening out the office, starting with the outdated employee handbook that Ray’s lawyers were using so effectively against them. So, what was wrong with it?
It had 12 of the 12 disastrous mistakes found in almost every employee handbook.
Thank goodness Lindsay had kept the single most useful book from her entire college curriculum: Bullet-Proof Your Employee Handbook.
Page by page, Lindsay turned that old handbook’s vulnerabilities into legal strengths. Soon she could:
If only Myrna had taken the job more seriously, Lindsay thought. She would have known that the employee handbook is an organization’s #1 defense against costly lawsuits. But then, Alan wouldn’t be treating me like I’m the company savior, she thought.
And it was true that with clearer personnel procedures in place, the whole organization was straightening up.
Before she said, “Yes! I would love to get out of this dark little room!,” Lindsay looked around at the neatly organized shelves and cabinets. The revised Employee Handbook stood proudly on her desk, her most ready reference. This is where it all started, she thought fondly.
Bullet-Proof Your Employee Handbook had turned the company around … and launched an HR star.
Wouldn’t you like to protect your organization and get the prestige that comes with streamlining your workforce for greater achievement? Order your copy of Bullet-Proof Your Employee Handbook now!
P.S. Remember, there’s absolutely no risk. If you don’t quickly see how your employee handbook can guide your company toward greater professionalism and legal security – I’ll refund your entire purchase price. No questions asked, and you’ll have no further obligation.
P.P.S. Employee lawsuits – they get more ambitious every day. The best defense is a good offense – and there’s no better weapon in your career arsenal than Bullet-Proof Your Employee Handbook!