Updating the Company Handbook

Company handbooks are an important document for each workplace. Since we are past the mid-year mark in 2016, it might be a good time for employers and their attorneys to review the handbook with new workplace issues coming to light. Here are three topics that should be covered in a company’s handbook:

  1. Social Media Policy

The National Labor Relations Act says union and non-union employees can engage in protected activity without interference from their employer. This protected activity includes discussing wages, work hours, and other terms of employment on social media platforms.

Employers should look at their social media policy to make sure it does not interfere with this right, but do make sure it prohibits employees from discussing trade secrets or other protected information.

  1. E-Smoking and Marijuana Use

E-cigarettes should be addressed in the company handbook like any other tobacco product. Other employees may have allergies or health concerns about the use of tobacco, so it needs to be included in the current smoke-free policy.

Regarding marijuana use, laws vary depending on the state where the company operates. Twenty-four states and the District of Columbia have passed laws legalizing it whether for medical or recreational purposes. Some states prohibit employers from terminating employees for being medical marijuana patients. However, most state statutes have an exception for those who use marijuana or are impaired on the job. Companies are advised to treat marijuana like other drugs, which means banning consumption during work time.

  1. LGBT Rights

Employment laws regarding LGBT individuals are currently in transition. However, with the Supreme Court legalizing same-sex marriages, this needs to be reflected in the company handbook. This means removing discriminatory exclusions for health insurance and retirement benefits, so they are the same for both same-sex married couples as well as other married couples.

Sexual Orientation and Gender identity (“SOGI”) are not presently included under Title VII’s prohibition of sex discrimination. However, many state antidiscrimination statutes do include them. Even in those states that don’t protect SOGI, Companies should seriously consider including them in their protected categories in non-discrimination and anti-harassment handbook policies.

Talk to InnovaCounsel about updating policy handbooks to reduce the risk of lawsuits regarding these new laws affecting the workplace. Companies without an employee handbook should talk to the attorneys at InnovaCounsel about creating one as soon as possible to establish rules and protect themselves and their employees. 

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