Friday, February 1, 2013

Handbooks, Policies, and Procedures - Oh My!

Since I ranted last week about the public misconceptions about the purpose of employment policies, this week I'm giving a peek behind the curtains on how they're drafted.  Sometimes this is done solely by the HR department, other times it's done solely by the Legal department.  It's best though, if it's done in a cross-department team that includes both HR and Legal.

This is because HR can be a little 'touchy-feely' in the way they word things so as to sound appealing to employees.  When doing that, policies can lose their legal enforceability by being too vague or alternatively can cause problems when the NLRB or EEOC gets a hold of them and starts reading intent behind wording that was cut and paste from something found on SHRM.

But, you usually can't leave it solely to Legal because attorneys can be OCD jerks that have to check precedent and case law before agreeing to any wording for anything, even if it's just the fluffy introduction to the company.  It takes months to get anything out of them, and when you do it's in so much legalese with so many disclaimers that the average employee can't read it.

OK, so maybe I'm exaggerating a bit, most HR and in house legal folks could draft a competent manual all on their own without any serious problems.  However, going through the exercise as a collaborative effort does offer the chance for an open dialogue with your HR team on the most recent state of the law.  It gives you an opportunity to make sure that the latest approved wording relating to employment at will gets in there.  It also gives you an opportunity to understand the concerns HR has regarding your workforce.  What policies do they want to highlight?  What do they not care so much about?  Listening well to how they approach this exercise will inform you as to where your risks are with regards to employee claims.  It also gives you some great material for upcoming training - and those dinner parties that you used to be too boring to be invited to.

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