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Bryan E. Kuhn
Counselor at Law, P.C.
Business & Employment Law Attorney

What can’t you include in an employee handbook?

An employment handbook can be an amazing tool for your workplace. This same handbook can be a great support if you have to enforce rules in the workplace or defend your actions due to a lawsuit.

However, an employee handbook can also be problematic. If you don’t know the laws that apply, such as what you can or cannot require of your employees, and include this information in the handbook, then you could find that the handbook may be used against you in court.

A well-written handbook is essential in a workplace

In an employee handbook, you’ll include some essential topics, such as the rules of conduct in the workplace and any zero-tolerance policies you have. You’ll include leave policies and an at-will disclaimer. State and local employment laws, as well as common-sense rules, such as “no sleeping on the job,” have to be included.

What you shouldn’t include in your employee handbook is any kind of statement that makes a promise. For example, you should not promise an annual raise if you don’t intend to give it. You shouldn’t state that there will be an annual review if you don’t have one, either.

Other items that you should not include in your employment contract include a standard operating procedure if you don’t intend on following it (such as the disciplinary measures you said you would take but then skipped over during firing) or contractual documents that need to be on separate legal forms.

The right employee handbook is protective — the wrong one is harmful

As an employer, you need to understand that the right employee handbook can go a long way in protecting your business and your interests. However, if you don’t take the time to do the legal research and make sure your employee handbook is set up correctly, you could find that it could be used against you and harmful to your business overall.

If an employee points out an issue with discipline, raises or other issues addressed in the handbook, it may be worth discussing a resolution with them. If they pursue legal action, it’s possible the court could rule against you if the handbook is not followed or legally binding.

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