Employment Policy Handbooks and Manuals

An employment policy manual or handbook is an important tool for every New Jersey employer, large or small.  Our New Jersey employment attorneys draft employment handbooks and manuals for employers of all sizes.

Employment manuals serve many purposes for employers.   Among these, they:

  • Provide employer -  specific rules, policies and procedures.
  • Set payroll and payday policies
  • Establish employee rules
  • Gives employees examples of conduct or performance which may lead to discipline
  •  Lists disciplinary procedures
  •  Establishes and publicizes the company’s anti-discrimination and anti-harassment policies, and procedures for reporting, investigating and preventing discrimination and harassment.
  • Provide uniform time off policies
  • Establish procedures to comply with various wage and hour laws.
  • Establish uniform policies and procedures, which prevents claims that one employee was treated less favorably than others because of discrimination or retaliation – if every employee is treated the same, none were discriminated against
  • Set drug and alcohol policies
  • Tell the employees what is expected of them.
  • Establish procedures to comply with various family and medical leave laws
  • Provide a receipt form, so employees cannot later claim to have not understood the rules, or that they were at-will employees

The importance of having a manual with anti-discrimination and anti-harassment policies, and procedures for reporting and investigating discrimination and harassment, cannot be overstated.  Under New Jersey employment law this is one of the factors which courts review to determine whether the company can avoid liability even if harassment or discrimination did occur.

Many New Jersey employers still do not have any employee policy manual.  For these employers, our New jersey employment attorneys meet with the owners and managers to determine the company’s requirements, and then draft a manual to its specific needs.  Some of the provisions are “boiler plate” which are needed to meet New Jersey’s legal requirements.  However, it is important that much of the manual be written by someone who understands both the company’s specific needs and its legal requirements.

Other employers do have manuals, but although they may not realize it they have manuals that can actually hurt them, rather than help.  For instance, many companies simply take manuals off the internet, which were not prepared by attorneys and do not take New Jersey law into account; some get them from payroll or human resources outsourcing companies which have no knowledge of New Jersey’s legal requirements; others come from a “friend,” and who knows where that came from, and even if from an attorney it does nothing to meet the employer’s specific needs.  For these employers we review their current manuals and determine what changes, if any, need to be made.

Even the best manuals cannot anticipate every change in the law, workplace or a particular industry.  Therefore, periodic reviews and updates are essential to ensure that the manual remains up-to-date.  Thus, the best rule for an employment policy handbook is to update it frequently.

A poorly drafted manual can create problems, however.  Under New Jersey employment law, if an employer is not careful an employment manual can created an implied employment contract, which the employer breaches if it fails to follow the policies in the manual (these are called “Woolley Contracts,” after the case of Woolley versus Hoffman-LaRoche, which first ruled that manuals can create employment contracts).  There are certain steps which can prevent a manual from becoming a contract.  They are simple, but failure to take them can prove very, very costly.

Likewise, some employment handbooks not drafted by New Jersey employment attorneys actually contain provisions that violate New Jersey or federal law.  This is another reason why it is important to have experienced New Jersey employment lawyers draft employment handbooks and manuals.

To learn more about the services provided by our New Jersey employment lawyers, please e-mail us or contact one of our attorneys at (973) 890-0004.

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