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Issues stemming from Colorado employee handbooks

An employee handbook can offer benefits to employers and employees, as long as it includes key workplace policies and procedures and avoid potential pitfalls.
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    January 22, 2014 /24-7PressRelease/ -- Issues stemming from Colorado employee handbooks

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When an employer has more than a few employees, having an employee handbook can be helpful. It is an efficient means of transmitting information about the employer's expectations and policies to all employees. Employees can consult the manual when they have questions, and employers can help prevent employment litigation by having documented policies on workplace behavior, rights, and responsibilities. An employee handbook can offer benefits to employers and employees, as long as it includes key workplace policies and procedures and avoid potential pitfalls.

What should be included in an employee handbook?

In order to be effective, employee handbooks should contain, at a minimum, the following information:
-Hours and compensation: The handbook should list the standard working hours for full-time employees, as well as attendance expectations and any overtime compensation procedures the company has. The handbook should explain how the business sets pay rates and salaries and how employees obtain raises. The handbook should outline benefits that the company offers to employees such as paid sick leave, vacation, and unpaid leave. If the employer offers benefits that are run by third-party providers, such as health insurance plans or retirement accounts, the handbook should instruct employees to refer to those companies' manuals for information.
-Harassment: An employee handbook should have an explicit anti-harassment statement, explaining that the company will not tolerate any form of harassment or abuse among employees.
-Complaints: The handbook should detail the procedure that employees should follow when they have a work-related complaint.
-Discipline: The handbook should list behavior that will result in disciplinary action for employees, as well as some of the possible actions the employer may take. It is important to note that the list is not exhaustive.
-Electronic communications: An employer should include a statement of how employees may use electronic communications and resources at work such as email, internet, and social media. If the business monitors employee email, the handbook should inform employees of this.
-Items not covered by the handbook: A handbook cannot cover every conceivable issue that may arise in the workplace, and the handbook should explicitly state that the employer reserves the right to take action outside of those listed in the handbook.

What should be avoided in an employee handbook?

Businesses can reduce their risk of employment-related business disputes by making sure they avoid including some things in employee handbooks, such as:
-Implied promises of continued employment: Colorado is an at-will employment state, meaning that an employer may terminate employment at any time without cause, unless there is an employment contract. Employee handbooks should avoid language that implies that if employees follow all of the employer's polices they will continue to be employed. Some courts view that as an employment contract, meaning that the employer may only fire an employee for cause, rather than at-will.
-Rigid discipline polices: Many employers have progressive discipline policies, where employees get several warnings about misconduct before termination. Employers should reserve the right to take immediate action regarding termination in the employee handbook. If an employee handbook is too specific in outlining the company's discipline policy, an employer may find it difficult to terminate employees without following all of the steps stated in the handbook.

Employee handbooks are useful tools for employers and employees, but a number of issues can arise from employee handbooks if employers are not careful in drafting the handbooks. Employers should seek the assistance of a seasoned business law attorney to draft or review employee handbooks to spot potential problems before they occur.

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