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Handbooks: Have You Updated Yours?

If you're an employer, you have likely given a new employee a handbook, requested them to read it, had them sign it, and then filed the signed document away. However, when is the last time you read the handbook yourself? If you can't remember, then it probably means it's time to update it. Why should you update your handbook if you abide by the same policies? While you may have a set of standards and rules set in your mind, the government is constantly changing the rules and regulations for employees and employers alike.

Here are some things you will want to add to your handbook!

Employer Flexibility 

The labor board recently granted employers more flexibility in the workplace and issued a new test for balancing employee rights against management rights. This includes the need for confidentiality for workplace investigations. This means that employers are allowed to keep such matters private during the investigation process to maintain the integrity of the overall investigation. Employees are protected in that they can use this law as a reason not to discuss any investigation-related interviews with their co-workers. Additionally, employees are not allowed to threaten violence or use obscene language if it creates an unfavorable environment. We highly recommend you create policies that reflect this.


Equal employment and sexual harassment laws both fall under the category of anti-harassment. Depending on the state, some employers are required to add various information to their policies including:

  • Examples of conduct that are considered harassment
  • Definitions of harassment depending on the state law
  • Contact information for agencies that investigate and enforce anti-harassment laws

It's important that these laws are clarified in the handbook so that employees are clear as to what is defined as harassment.

Marijuana Use 

Throughout the years, recreational marijuana use has been a hot topic and that hasn't changed quite yet. With several states legalizing recreational use, the rules can become blurry for legalized states. While it's still prohibited to be under the influence at the workplace, there are certain restrictions to disciplinary actions now. Nevada and New York City have even prohibited pre-employment marijuana tests. However, these laws have exceptions for federal employees and occupations that require a higher level of safety.

Family Focus 

Under the Federal Fair Labor Standards Act, working mothers are now able to take unlimited, unpaid breaks to express milk for the first year after the child's birth. This primarily applies to larger companies of 50 or more employees. However, depending on your location, this regulation may be applied to smaller companies as well. There have also been many states and cities that now have paid leave laws which covers sick leave, family leave, and domestic violence leave.

Hairstyle Discrimination 

Once again, depending on your location, you may need to be aware of laws prohibiting hairstyle discrimination. It's important to be aware of language within handbooks regarding hairstyles so as not to get in a bind with an employee based on your outdated handbook.

As you can see, it's important to be aware of the laws in your area and consequently update your handbook according to those laws. This protects both you and your employees and should be done annually. It doesn't stop there though. Not only do you need to update your handbook, but you also need to have your employees sign the handbook again when significant changes are made.

No one wants to find themselves in a legal bind. If you want to avoid putting yourself in this position, keep your handbook updated.

Do you need more information about your handbook or an HR consultant to help you navigate the confusing rules and regulations? Stellaris can help. Contact us!

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