#Nextchat: Employee Handbooks—Every Word Counts


An employee handbook is essential for the well-being of every organization. It communicates the employer’s mission, vision and culture, as well as information on rules, policies and benefits. It also contains information on state and federal employment laws. 

When well-constructed, employee handbooks help employers build trusting relationships with workers, avoid conflicts and ensure fair treatment in the workplace. When poorly written, they can create a nightmare of situations for HR, ranging from hostile work environments to lawsuits. 

According to Allan H. Weitzman, head of the Labor and Employment Law Department in the Boca Raton office of Proskauer Rose LLP, when it comes to employee handbooks, “every word counts.” He says there are seven principles every HR professional should follow when creating one:

It is imperative that employers update their handbooks on a regular basis to ensure compliance with all state and federal employment laws and with changes to their own policies and procedures. When faced with lawsuits by employees, these check-ups could make or break an employer’s case in court.

If you need to create or update your organization’s employee handbook and are not sure where to start, you can find a sample handbook template along with sample policies and several State and Local Statutes and Regulations on the SHRM website.  

You can also join @shrmnextchat at 3 p.m. ET on August 5 for #Nextchat with special guest Allan Weitzman (@Allan_Weitzman). Allan is an expert on employee handbooks and has presented the session “Employee Handbooks – Every Word Counts” the SHRM Annual Conference & Exposition for 21 consecutive years.  We’ll chat about how to create an employee handbook that will help build trust with employees while protecting the employer’s best interests.

Q1. What are some of the top “must-haves” to include in your organization’s employee handbook?

Q2. What policies do not belong in an employee handbook?

Q3. What are the risks of policies that are not compliant with a federal or state law, rule or regulation? What are examples?

Q4. Other than vacation and other leave provisions, what parts of your employee handbook do you think employees actually read?

Q5. When it comes to handbooks, how can you balance being employee-friendly with protecting the company from legal liability?

Q6. If your company operates in more than one state, how do you deal with state law differences in your handbook?

Q7. In litigation, which employee handbook polices are most commonly used against employers?

Q8. In what situations do you wish you had an employee handbook policy to address a workplace issue? 

Q9. What can HR professionals do within their organizations to elevate the importance of updated, legally compliant handbooks?


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