Employee Handbooks – Not as simple as you think…

Recently, I was asked to share a copy of an employee handbook that I drafted for a particular organization. The person requesting the handbook told me that they “needed an example to make sure theirs was legally correct.” I ended up turning this person down, and offering to do a substantial training on the issue. I’m not trying to be selfish or not share my knowledge, instead employee handbooks are actually very complicated things and are definitely not one size fits all! For example, my recent employee handbook project lasted multiple months and included lots of legal research, multiple discussions with the nonprofit’s Board of Directors, and hours of drafting and multiple revisions. Even then, it was subject to the nonprofit’s Board of Directors vote of approval. Employee handbooks are a lot like an onion – so many layers and a very high likelihood of tears. Yet, if you prepare well and have appropriate legal assistance, it will be one of the best investments your nonprofit will make. Before drafting any handbook policy statements, your nonprofit needs to address a number of issues. I have listed some of the most important ones below:
1.       Does your organization understand the difference between an employee handbook and a policies/procedures manual?
2.       What employees are going to be covered by the handbook?
3.       Does your organization need more than one handbook?
4.       How will jurisdictional issues be handled? (For example, if you are located in a variety of cities or states that impose different leave ordinances – see the Sick Leaves passed by Minneapolis and Saint Paul from last year…)
5.       How will you distribute the handbook?
6.       How will the handbook be monitored for ongoing legal compliance, timeliness and accuracy?
In upcoming posts, we will unpack each of these items to help you get prepared to assist your nonprofit draft a fantastic and most importantly, legally accurate employee handbook. Most importantly, each organization needs to plan well and seek the appropriate input (ehem, legal advice) to make sure they are doing “the right thing” and making sure your organization is not violating the law.

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