An employee handbook lists:
- what’s acceptable and not acceptable in the workplace;
- policies regarding vacations;
- policies for filing or resolving any type of complaint;
- the hierarchy of whom you make complaints;
- and everything about running the practice on the part of the employee, and how they are supposed to handle themselves in a situation.
Employee handbooks are guided under the National Labor Relations Act. Under the Act, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) reviews complaints made by employees.
An employee is fired because he was in breach of an employee handbook policy. The employee believes the policy isn’t lawful, and files a claim to the National Labor Relations Board. The Board then investigates the handbook policies, determines why the employee was fired, and decides if the termination was in violation of the Act.
The NLRB doesn’t just come to your workplace unannounced; there has to be a complaint filed against the employer for the NLRB to be involved. If the NLRB finds that an employee is required to be reinstated after their investigation, which can include paying back-wages since the firing, the employer must place notices in the workplace explaining why the employee is back, what the claim was against them, why the employer was wrong, and what they are being paid. This can get extreme, and no employer wants this to occur in their office.
One area that should be addressed in every employee handbook is the confidentiality of employee information – wages, how employees are paid, vacation time, etc. Many employers, across the board, are under the mistaken impression that co-workers are not allowed to discuss how much they are paid, but they are allowed.
Now, obviously, if an employee is getting paid more than another, such discussions could spark some type of problem, so the caveat is that they can discuss their pay unless it starts to interfere with their work or the operation of the business. That’s how an employer can counter a claim against from an employee who was fired for discussing pay. The handbook can’t prohibit talk of wages unless it interferes with the business.
Another area to address in the employee handbook is social media. It is important for health care personnel not to disclose any type of HIPAA-protected information on social media. The handbook should be very specific to ensure employees understand what is protected under HIPAA and what they are not allowed to disclose. This will help ensure compliance with the law, which the employees may or may not be aware of at the time of hiring or during the scope of their employment.
There are a number of things which should be covered in the employee handbook to protect the business, other workers, vendors, patients, clients and customers. Employees need to know and understand the rules and regulations, written in clear and concise language. If an employee is fired because of a particular policy that is ambiguous or too broad, the NLRB will require the employee to be reinstated.
Don’t wait until something happens. The minute an employee makes a complaint, it’s too late.
Stephanie J. Rodin, Esq.
Rodin Legal, P.C.
Tel: (917) 345-8972
Fax: (917) 591-4428