2015 is winding down and your year-end to-do list is getting longer and longer and longer. It can be easy to overlook your employee handbook in the midst of all of the other craziness going on. But it’s important that you take a few minutes and read and review it to make sure you aren’t leaving yourself open to legal issues that could cause bigger headaches in the new year.
So let’s take a quick look at what you need to do to update your employee handbook for 2016 and the changes that are coming.
Employees have the right to discuss wages with co-workers
The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) released a report earlier this year that stated that employees have the right to discuss wages, hours, and other terms and conditions of employment with management, fellow employees, non-employees, and third parties such as the media.
You can still state that employees are not free to disclose confidential information or company secrets. You just need to be very careful about how you word those statements.
For example, this would considered unlawful by the NLRB:
Employees are not free to discuss employee information, such as phone numbers or addresses, outside of work.
This would be considered lawful by the NLRB:
Employees are not authorized to discuss business secrets or other confidential information outside of work.
It’s a small change in the verbiage that keeps you legal and maintains your confidentiality arrangements.
Employees can talk about bad working conditions on social media
Under the same NLRB report, employer’s are prohibited from limiting an employee’s rights to discuss their terms and conditions of employment on social media.
You also cannot ban them from posting photos, commenting on blog posts, writing blog posts, offering comments or statements from coworkers or managers that demonstrate substandard working conditions.
the minimum wage to qualify as exempt is going up
The DOL (Department of Labor) is pushing through a proposal that will force employers to move anyone making less than $970 a week to non-exempt status. This means that more of your workforce will qualify for overtime pay.
While a final decision hasn’t been reached yet, it’s looking very likely that the ruling will pass. So it would be good to consider the implications for your handbook. This could include things like:
- Clarifying guidelines for overtime and if it requires prior approval from management
- Clarifying expectations for off-duty work – such as checking and answering email on a personal device
- Amending your definition of exempt and non-exempt status if it includes any statements concerning a minimum wage to qualify as exempt
If you want to read more on that, check out our article that goes into more detail at: http://blog.ebs-consulting.com/exempts-are-getting-a-raise-what-does-that-mean-for-you
Same-Sex Benefits and equality
With the Supreme Court ruling earlier this year allowing same-sex marriages, many companies need to revise several of their policies to reflect the change. This can include provisions concerning:
- Policies and procedures that ensure the same rights extended to married employees will apply to same-sex couples.
- Any verbiage in your FMLA (Family Medical Leave Act) that includes spousal leave for bereavement and medical situations. Make sure the documentation and processes are the same for same-sex or opposite-sex couples.
- Your anti-discrimination policy should reflect the ruling too.