Is Your Handbook Unlawful?

Is Your Handbook Unlawful?

Did you know your employee handbook is considered illegal if it contains language that asks employees to “be respectful to the company, other employees, customers, partners and competitors,” or says, “don't pick fights online?"

The National Labor Relations Act requires handbooks to include very specific language for each situation and prohibits companies from setting overly broad rules for employees, says employment law attorney Tracy Moon.

Companies need to revise handbooks annually, when the law changes or when there is a major change in company policy. Overly broad statements are considered illegal because they might encroach on employees' protected class such as freedom of speech. The following are examples rules of rules that are overly broad, hence considered unlawful:

  • Don't make insulting, embarrassing, hurtful or abusive comments about other company employees online
  • Do not send unwanted, offensive or inappropriate emails

Moon suggests using very specific language in employee handbooks for rules to be considered lawful:

  • Don't make “inappropriate gestures, including visual staring”
  • No “use of racial slurs, derogatory comments, or insults 

Using legal counsel, setting up alerts for changes in law, and adjusting policies and procedures to reflect changes can help avoid litigation. The goal is not to win lawsuits but to avoid them.

Moon provided nine key handbook updates, sample policies and a sample handbook at a recent Avant Resources training. The recording and handouts are available for purchase, or register for the next update of the live class in January.

Employee Handbook Updates

or even better, try our multi-state Employee Handbook Builder:

Handbook Builder



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