Does your employee handbook include the right ingredients?

Employee handbooks serve to define employee success and failure in the workplace.  Employers express their definition of success and failure in the workplace by affirming some behavior and prohibiting other behavior.  On the affirmative side, employers reward productive practices like timely reporting to work and dressing in a professional manner.  On the negative side, employers discipline harassment, retaliation and unlawful touching.  By defining these important positive and negative policies, by defining the terms and conditions of employment, the employer, through the employee handbook, can cover significant distances in clearly defining employee success and failure.

And what is the alternative?  Employers make up the rules whenever circumstances arise and in those workplaces employees spend a lot of time trying to guess what is the employer’s definition of success and failure.  An invitation for chaos, politics and unpredictability to define the day.

Employee handbooks contain many policies and the following checklist is not exhaustive, but it will get you thinking about the quality of your handbook.

Does your employee handbook answer the following questions?

What is the legal name of the employer?

Is the table of contents user friendly?

Are the policies user friendly?

Do the policies clearly define employer expectations?

Is the tribe an at-will or a for-cause employer?

Does the employer define equal employment opportunity?

Does the tribe prohibit harassment based on the protected classes defined by the employer?

Is the use of drugs and alcohol addressed by the employer?

Does the employer address pay, overtime and minimum wage?

Are medical and other benefits defined consistently with summary plan descriptions?

Does the employer provide and define due process through grievances, progressive discipline and complaints?

Is safety addressed?

Is there a policy which permits the employer to modify the handbook?

Is there an acknowledgement which includes a clear consent to the exclusive jurisdiction of the tribe?

Is there a “Get along well with others” policy?

Are conflicts of interest addressed?

Is preference clearly defined?

Does the handbook take the Tribe’s culture, traditions, customs and objectives into account in tailoring policies to the tribe?

Is there an introductory period?

Is bereavement addressed and does the policy reflect the tribes definition of family?

Is nepotism defined and prohibited?

What is the tribe’s perspective on the application of the federal laws which are silent on applicability…FLSA, FMLA, OSHA, ADEA, and NLRA?

These are not all of the ingredients in the handbook stew but the answers to these (and other) questions are an excellent first step toward evaluating the effectiveness and completeness of the employee handbook.

Recommendation: Assess whether the handbook addresses the important work-related issues for any employer and as importantly the policies which reflect your uniqueness, customs, traditions and values.

About the Author:

Richard McGee is a lawyer in Minneapolis, Minnesota who focuses his practice on gaming, gaming regulation, tribal employment and litigation in tribal, state and federal courts.  Richard has the privilege of working with tribes and tribal organizations on Human Resources matters including training.  Additionally, tribes ask Richard to address specific topics while incorporating the tribe’s related laws and policies into the sessions.  This is an invitation to engage Richard to produce and facilitate training for your tribe.