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Employee Handbooks: Social Media, NLRB and EEO Trends

By XpertHR - 2014-11-21 - Updated: 2015-01-23

Summary

Employers must be aware of recent changes in the law, society and technology, when developing or updating their employee handbooks.

"Updating and amending an employee handbook to comply with the current law and to reflect the most up-to-date protections should be done on an annual or semi-annual basis"

Main Document

Google Glass, LGBT protection, medical marijuana and no-fault attendance policies are just a few of the trends that employers need to consider when developing or updating their employee handbooks, says a new XperHR report. It's crucial that employers be aware of recent changes in the law, society and technology or they could face government sanctions.

Among the most prevalent workplace trends are "Bring Your Own Device" (BYOD) and emerging technologies such as Google Glass and biometrics. Because there are significant risks in permitting employees to use such technology, it is imperative for employers to create strong policies to shield themselves from liability and give employees a clear idea of what is permissible and what is not. Further, a growing number of employers are putting employees on notice that they may be monitored and have a diminished expectation of privacy in the workplace.

Employers should ensure compliance with EEO policies prohibiting discrimination, harassment and retaliation, and provide reasonable accommodations when needed.

They should frequently revisit and update their policies, as states and municipalities are increasingly providing employment protections to new and emerging protected classes such as lesbians; gays, bisexuals and transgender individuals; pregnant women; domestic violence victims; the homeless and the unemployed.

"It is also important to be aware of local laws that address medical marijuana, e-cigarettes in the workplace, paid sick leave, same-sex marriage, LGBT rights, and the use of cell phones while driving," says Beth Zoller, Legal Editor, XpertHR. "Prudent employers should integrate state and municipal laws into their workplace policies."

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has been proactive in pursuing employers for handbook policies that can be interpreted as infringing upon the right of employees to engage in protected conduct. The NLRB has found policies such as those dealing with social media, contact with the press, confidentiality, investigations and employee communications to violate employee rights. As a result, employers should be extremely careful when drafting such policy provisions and avoid overly broad and ambiguous language and blanket rules that can be interpreted as interfering with the right of employees to engage in protected concerted activity.

"The employee handbook is a living document that should evolve as laws and your business change," says Zoller. "Updating and amending an employee handbook to comply with the current law and to reflect the most up-to-date protections should be done on an annual or semi-annual basis."

XpertHR's online service provides HR professionals with practical compliance tools and comprehensive guidance on federal, state and municipal law, helping employers stay current with evolving and complex employment law issues. XpertHR content is published in association with sister company LexisNexis. XpertHR.com is a unique, easy-to-use solution organized around the day-to-day responsibilities of HR professionals. In addition to smart search features, you can browse through content by task, by topic, or by tool type to help you find just what you need in seconds. Our key features include the popular Employment Law Manual and Liveflo employment workflows.

For a free whitepaper on how to create and implement employee handbooks, visit XpertHR - www.xperthr.com

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