8 Things to Consider When Updating Employee Handbooks for 2017

 

 

Federal and state legal developments over the last year brought a lot of changes that impact workplace policies and procedures, making it critical for companies to review their handbooks for compliance. 

"2016 was the busiest year I can recall in this regard," said Elaine Diedrich, an attorney with Littler in Pittsburgh.

Workplace rules and regulations may continue to change under President Donald Trump's administration, but employers should make sure their handbooks are up to date under current laws, she added.  

Trump has made overtures that regulations will be pulled back, and if that happens, it could be positive for businesses that have been struggling to keep up with all of the latest changes, said Jason Keck, an attorney with Fisher Phillips in Chicago.

In the meantime, employers should take a close look at their policies. From National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) decisions to local paid-sick-leave laws, here are some of the important changes to note from the past year.

1. NLRB Decisions

"At the federal level, we've seen a lot from the NLRB," Keck said. Employers should review their social media policies, keeping in mind the board's Aug. 18, 2016, decision that found that Chipotle's social media policy prohibiting employees from "posting incomplete, confidential or inaccurate information" violated the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA).

The board said that "in order to lose the act's protection, more than a false or misleading statement by the employee is required; it must be shown that the employee had a malicious motive."

Employers also should examine and possibly rewrite "any policy that simply tells employees they need to act professionally and in a positive manner or be nice to customers," Diedrich said.

The board's decision in T-Mobile U.S.A. Inc. (April 29, 2016) found that several workplace rules were unlawful, including a rule about maintaining a positive work environment.

The NLRB said employees could reasonably interpret the rule to restrict "potentially controversial or contentious communications and discussions," including those involving their right to join a union and bargain collectively.

Also review policies about recording in the workplace, media inquiries, reference checks and policies that prohibit disparagement of the employer, Diedrich added.

Keck noted that the U.S. Supreme Court will eventually weigh in on the NLRB's position that class-action waivers in arbitration agreements violate an employee's right to engage in protected, concerted activity.

Until then, employers will have to assess whether to have a class-action waiver in their handbook, he said.

2. Reporting Violations

Make sure handbook provisions don't ... 

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