Legal Update: What's In Your Employee Manual?
Up-front rules can sidestep trouble down the road.
Mathew Levy, JD; and Stacey Marder, JD
Your employees are among your facility's most valuable assets, but they can also be liabilities, and you're ultimately responsible for their actions. A comprehensive, up-to-date employee manual is the key to making sure they're aware of what you expect from them, and what they can expect from you. It can also provide legal protection in the event you're served with an employment claim. When's the last time you reviewed and revised your employee manual that is, if you've drafted one at all? At a minimum, it should clearly cover the following 4 areas.
Probation and termination
Before you bring on a new hire, do your due diligence by conducting background checks, verifying licenses and checking referrals. Once a new employee is on board, though, we suggest a probation period of a few months, during which time she and your facility's leaders can evaluate the appropriateness of the employment. Probation period employees are generally not afforded benefits, but upon its successful completion you should offer them the full privileges of employment, as described in the employee manual.
"Employment at will" means that an employer has the right to discharge an employee at any time for any reason (except, of course, with respect to race, creed, national origin, age, handicap, gender, sexual orientation or marital status). If your state is among the many that recognize the concept, be sure your manual says so. Upon termination, all employees should undergo an exit interview with administration, in which you'll discuss the terms of the employment and discharge.
Hours and days
You can avoid disputes large and small if your manual classifies the types of employment on site (full-time, part-time and per-diem, for example) and the hours that each type of employee is expected to work. The manual should advise employees whom they should inform in the event they'll be late for their shift, spell out the facility's policy on taking time off during the day for personal matters, and explain if and when they are eligible for overtime pay.