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Legal Updates

New Year’s Resolution: Time To Review And Update Employment Policies

As 2007 fast approaches, we recommend that employers adopt a New Year’s resolution to review and update all employment policies.  Each employer is encouraged to review and update its employee handbook (and any other employment policies) annually, because:  (1) federal and state laws are constantly changing; (2) as an employer’s operations expand into new states, existing employment policies often need to be revised to reflect the legal requirements in those states; and (3) over time, an employer’s practices may depart from its written policies.

In the past year, there have been numerous changes in federal and state labor and employment laws, including these:

  • The Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs issued its final rule defining an “Internet Applicant.”
  • Massachusetts enacted a health care reform law, which prohibits discrimination based on an employee’s receipt of free medical services and/or disclosure of information regarding employer-sponsored health insurance plans.
  • Maine now provides unpaid leave to spouses, domestic partners and parents of soldiers called into active duty.
  • New Hampshire now provides leave for crime victims.
  • Illinois now prohibits discrimination against individuals on the basis of sexual orientation.
  • Missouri now provides that an employee may be disqualified from unemployment benefits for having violated an employer’s substance abuse prevention policy.

Similarly, employers may want to implement a pandemic flu policy, to set forth procedures in the result of a pandemic flu, including information about reducing the spread of disease and addressing attendance issues.  In addition, given the various identity theft laws that were enacted during 2006, many employers are now required to implement policies and procedures to protect the personal information of their employees and customers.

As an employer expands into new states, it will likely be subject to state labor and employment laws that are inconsistent with each other.  For example, unlike most other states, Colorado, Georgia and New York provide that employees may be eligible for up to two hours of paid leave to vote in local and national elections.  Massachusetts requires employers to distribute annually a sexual harassment policy that must contain particular information specified by applicable state regulations.  California prohibits “use it or lose it” vacation policies.  And there are countless other examples of significant variations in state labor and employment laws.

Finally, an employer’s unwritten policies and practices typically change over time.  These changes may result from growth or reorganization, a change in management, recent experiences (finding a better way) and from new issues that emerge.

The Firm has extensive experience in drafting employment policies across a wide range of industries and for employers of all sizes, including multi-state employee handbooks and managers’ guides.

Please feel free to contact us for assistance in updating your employee handbook and/or managers’ guide, with drafting your first employee handbook and/or managers’ guide or to discuss training in regard to your employment policies.