It’s Time to Dust Off Your Employee Handbook: Four Policies You Should Review Today

With employment laws in a constant state of flux, it is important for employers to periodically review and revise their employee handbooks to ensure that policies, practices and procedures comply with applicable laws and other current obligations and requirements. This is particularly important for multistate and multi-jurisdictional employers, because state and local employment laws and other regulatory authorities have radically changed during the last few years. A well-written handbook is a critical communication tool for employers. It sets forth the company’s rules and standards, defines the company’s expectations for the employment relationship, communicates behavioral yardsticks and, in some instances, provides the means for providing required legal notices.

It is important to note that handbooks are not one-size-fits-all. Policies that may be imperative for some industries are unimportant in others. That said, below are four key employment policies that appear in most employment handbooks and should periodically be scrutinized by employers to make sure they are up to date. Staffing agencies should take additional care to ensure that their clients are also updating their handbooks to comply with applicable laws and requirements.

1. Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) Policy. States and municipalities continue to expand equal employment opportunity protections. Many state and local laws provide varying protections to classes of employees not covered under federal law. For example, California and New York recently passed laws that protect employees from discrimination based on natural hairstyles and hair textures. Because staffing agencies and their clients are often named as joint employers in discrimination lawsuits, it is important that they both revisit their EEO and anti-discrimination policies to ensure that all policies are up to date and reflect the current state of applicable laws.

2. Leave Policies. Numerous states and municipalities are passing expansive paid leave laws that require employers to provide paid leave for employees’ own or others’ health and safety needs. Many of these laws explicitly include staffing agencies’ employees. For example, the city of Dallas recently enacted a paid sick leave ordinance that defines an “employee” as an individual performing work through a temporary or employment agency. These laws often require, among other things, that employers publish employees’ rights and remedies under the paid sick leave laws in their company handbooks, and the laws often carry civil penalties for noncompliance. For these reasons, employers affected by these laws should be creating or revising paid sick leave policies to comply.

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3. Drug and Alcohol Policy. Numerous states and localities have laws that ban e-cigarettes in various public and private places. Employers affected by these laws or those who wish to include regulation of e-cigarettes in their drug and alcohol policies should review such policies to ensure that it is clearly communicated to employees that e-cigarettes use at work is prohibited.

Likewise, as medical and recreational marijuana legislation continues to evolve and confusion among employees rises, employers should consider clarifying their drug and alcohol policies to specifically address medical and recreational marijuana use.

4. Weapons in the Workplace. Employers who wish to prohibit concealed and open firearms in the workplace should include a policy in their handbooks that clearly states that firearms are prohibited in the workplace. Keep in mind, however, that some state laws permit employees to store lawfully possessed firearms and ammunition in their vehicles when parked in an employer’s parking lot.


The foregoing list highlights several significant policies that merit attention, but of course, it is not exhaustive. Employers should regularly review all policies in their handbooks with assistance from employment counsel to ensure that company policies are at all times compliant with applicable federal, state and local laws.

Dana T. Chang Dikas

Dana T. Chang Dikas
Dana T. Chang Dikas, an associate in the Fisher Phillips Dallas office, defends employers in all phases of litigation in state and federal courts and before various local, state and national administrative agencies.

Dana T. Chang Dikas

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