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What policies are covered in an employee handbook?

Most Michigan residents would agree that it is important for everyone to follow the rules. The trouble is, it is hard for someone to follow the rules if the person does not know what the rules are in a given situation.

When it comes to someone's employment, there are often rules that must be followed by the employee. However, when employers do not provide their employees with specific rules to follow, it can pose problems and generate disputes, such as when an employee does something that he or she does not believe was prohibited, while the employer believes otherwise.

Last week, for instance, this blog discussed the rules governing an employee's ability to engage in social media postings related to employment. While there are certain things employers cannot prohibit the employee from doing, there are other matters like harassment, bullying and discrimination that can and should be prohibited. However, many employers may not have rules in place regarding these issues.

Typically, it is a good idea for an employer to have some form of employee handbook to set forth the employer's expectations regarding its employees. A broad range of issues can be covered in the employee handbook, including policies on harassment, bullying and discrimination, as well as a host of other issues.

For instance, employers may have policies on what constitutes a conflict of interest if their employees engage in other activity outside of their employment. Handbooks also frequently cover general matters like work schedules and tardiness policies, standards of conduct for employees, computer and IT policies and general employment information about job classifications and the like.

Handbooks also set forth benefit and leave policies, including paid time off and sick leave, which can prove useful when an employee may later claim a wrongful discharge from employment. If the handbook proscribed certain conduct that was violated by the employee, or if the employee claims to be entitled to something that is contrary to the handbook, it can be very helpful to point back to the handbook in the employment dispute.

Source: U.S. Small Business Administration, "Employee handbooks," accessed on March 5, 2016

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