This spring has been busy with questions about employee handbooks. Perhaps it is because the NLRB just issued a directive on the legality of various clauses usually contained in handbooks. Or perhaps it’s because employers, including construction companies, are realizing the importance that handbooks play in defending against claims of harassment.
Employee Handbooks Are Important
Employee handbooks are an employer’s first line of defense in claims of harassment. A key provision to any employee handbook is an anti-harassment provision that includes:
- A definition of harassment;
- The process to complain about harassment;
- A commitment to investigate all claims of harassment; and
- An assurance that no one will be retaliated against for reporting harassment.
This is the first line of defense in a harassment claim because employers may avoid liability IF they have a policy against harassment, investigate the situation, and take appropriate action in response to the allegations of harassment. If the employer does not have an anti-harassment policy, this defense is not available and the situation will be more difficult to resolve.
Employee Handbooks Can Be Simple
I have heard employers say time and time again, we’re a close knit crew and we don’t want a 50 page employee handbook. First, you are a close knit crew until some complains about harassment. Second, you don’t have to have a 50 page handbook. Handbooks are often times less than 15 pages, and many times less than 10 pages. This is not a lot of paper, given the protection that a handbook can provide.
Training is Crucial
Just like with your safety policies, you have to provide training on your handbook. At least once a year, you should go over the handbook , spending a little extra time on the anti-harassment policy and reporting procedure.
Take Away: You need an employee handbook. Make it a goal for this spring or even 2015 to adopt an employee handbook.