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Important Handbook Updates for 2024 and Other Considerations

A personnel handbook is a critical document for any organization to ensure compliance with labor laws and regulations. Handbooks should contain information that is relevant and up to date for employees’ awareness and for employers to reference.

Key components of a personnel handbook, along with updates for 2024, include:

  • An Introduction and Purpose: Employees should be made aware that the handbook is a set of rules, procedures and policies with which they need to be familiar.

 

  • Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) Policies: This section outlines the employer’s commitment to providing equal employment opportunities to all individuals regardless of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability, or other protected characteristics. It should include information on preventing discrimination and harassment in the workplace, and on requesting workplace accommodations. Also, in 2023, the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act and Pump for Nursing Mothers Act went into effect. Handbooks should minimally not make any statements that are contrary to the protections these laws afford employees, but could also include provisions specifically designed to make employees aware of their rights under these Acts.

 

  • Employment Policies and Procedures: Clear policies should be outlined regarding onboarding, including employment eligibility verification procedures, and termination procedures. This section should also cover job classifications, performance evaluations, and disciplinary actions.

 

  • Work Hours and Attendance: Policies regarding work schedules, timekeeping, breaks, overtime, and attendance should be outlined, along with procedures for requesting time off and managing absences.

 

  • Wages, Benefits, and Compensation: Detailed information about wages, salary structures, overtime pay, bonuses, benefits (such as health insurance, retirement plans, and paid time off), and any other compensation-related policies should be included. References to summary plan descriptions and how to review them can be inserted to avoid repeating the information contained therein.

 

  • Health and Safety Policies: This section outlines the organization’s commitment to providing a safe and healthy work environment, including policies on workplace safety, accident reporting and workers compensation, emergency procedures, compliance with Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”) regulations, and drug and alcohol policies.

 

  • If applicable, include a section on the Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”) that sets forth the procedures for requesting and receiving approval for FMLA leave and how FMLA affects other benefits (such as use of paid time off).

 

  • Employee Conduct and Code of Ethics: Expectations for employee conduct, including professionalism, confidentiality, conflicts of interest, and ethical behavior, should be outlined in this section. Note that a 2023 National Labor Relations Board (“NLRB”) decision has narrowed the scope of conduct that can be regulated by employers. Specifically, avoid any prohibitions or restrictions that could be seen as inhibiting employees’ rights to concerted activity under the National Labor Relations Act (“NLRA”), or that could cause a chilling effect on employees exercising these rights.

 

  • Privacy and Confidentiality Policies: Guidelines for protecting employee privacy and confidentiality of sensitive information, including personal and medical information, should be included. The above note on NLRB decisions applies here as well: the NLRB has recently ruled that overly broad confidentiality requirements can have an unlawful chilling effect on employees’ rights to concerted activity. As such, confidentiality provisions should be limited to protecting legitimate business interests.

 

  • Technology: Policies regarding the use of company technology, internet usage, email, social media, and electronic communications should be clearly stated to ensure compliance and protect the organization’s interests. More than ever, cyber security policies should set expectations for procedures employees should undertake if they believe there is a cyber security threat to the organization.

 

  • Complaint Procedures: Procedures for reporting and addressing complaints, or concerns related to workplace issues, including harassment, discrimination, and other violations of company policies or labor laws. Note that complaints of unlawful harassment or discrimination should be directed to Human Resources or another designated individual, rather than encouraging employees to address the situation themselves.

 

  • Legal Compliance Statements: A statement or statements emphasizing the organization’s commitment to complying with all applicable federal, state, and local labor laws and regulations. This includes a commitment to compliance with the NLRA, regardless of whether the workplace is unionized.

 

  • Acknowledgment and Signature: A section where employees acknowledge receipt of the handbook, agree to adhere to its policies, and sign to confirm understanding. Acknowledgements are a critical document during litigation. They are used to show that the employee was aware of the employer’s policies and procedures in the event there is a dispute about whether the employee followed the rules.

Regularly reviewing and updating a personnel handbook is essential to ensure it remains compliant with evolving labor laws and regulations. Additionally, it’s important to consult with legal counsel to ensure accuracy and completeness. The Employment Team at Stock and Leader is ready to assist you with developing or updating your company’s or organization’s handbook.

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