Employment Handbooks

Does your company or client have a written employee handbook or personnel manual? If so, chances are that you drafted the document in-house, using "canned" software or a borrowed copy as an example. There are many advantages to utilizing an employee handbook, and from a purely legal perspective, your company is hoping to establish standards of conduct and prevent legal liability by providing one. But a poorly drafted handbook can actually be used against your company to prove the employee's case; therefore, a solid list of ground rules should be created, distributed to and signed for by each employee.


Your liabilities start when you hire your first employee

A formal memo should be provided at hire to set straight issues such as hours of work and attendance expectations, declared company holidays, vacations and sick leave, procedures regarding harassment, payroll deductions and payday procedures. A job description is also strongly suggested to define the responsibilities of the position that the employee is about to enter.

After your company hires the fifth employee

In addition to the above mentioned items, a formal handbook is warranted pursuant to the Pinellas County Ordinance, which prohibits employment discrimination.

At fifteen employees

Your handbook should also include information on Federal Civil Rights, Americans with Disabilities Act, and Pregnancy Leave Act.


Ensures that you comply with the policies set forth in the manual

An employee handbook establishes standards and policies addressing issues that may arise in your company's day-to-day operations.

Provide a clear job description

A well drafted and comprehensive employee handbook is a critical defense document in any employment case. As an example: a clear job description will allow your company to defend claims for overtime by a salaried employee filed with the Department of Labor regarding wage and hour disputes.

Increase your control over future lawsuits and minimize expenses

It is essential that the policies set forth in the handbook be followed consistently. In fact, an employer's failure to comply with its own handbook can be considered to be evidence of disparate treatment or discriminatory motive in an employee lawsuit. It is also necessary for supervisors to be trained about the provisions of the handbook and employment laws, in general, so that your company will not inadvertently commit violations of the various employment laws.

Recent Supreme Court decisions have created opportunities for better protections from liability

A variety of factors have contributed to the explosive growth of employee lawsuits. New laws such as the revisions of the Civil Rights Act, which affords employees the right to jury trials in federal discrimination lawsuits, have encouraged unhappy ex-employees to file suit. As the stakes have increased in this litigation, so have the costs of defending these suits.

In light of these decisions, there is a need to promulgate and implement sexual harassment policies devoted to preventing and promptly correcting any harassing behavior, and to ensure that employees are advised of the preventive or corrective opportunities afforded by the your company. In cases brought under Federal civil rights laws, such policies might, depending on the circumstances, afford a defense against the actions of a rogue supervisor.