Sometimes, the best lawsuit strategy is taking precautions before a dispute arises. A well-drafted and updated employee handbook can help protect your business in an employment law legal suit.

Purpose

An employee manual is intended to assure that your employees’ behavior, work habits and performance coincides with your business mission. It helps reduce time spent on training that is unrelated to work.

Handbooks contain basic procedures such as requesting leave. Employment law matters, such as sexual harassment allegations, should be included to help reduce lawsuit liability.

Contents

Most of the handbook should cover policies governing employee conduct, equal employment opportunity, discipline, social media use, workplace security, substance abuse and expensing. It also needs to address basics such as attendance, work hours, time off and sick leave. Onboarding procedures for new employees should be contained in the handbook.

Employment conduct policies must explicitly prohibit sexual harassment and discrimination and describe the disciplinary and investigation procedures addressing these allegations.

Unless employees were hired under contract, the employer should include a clause stating the terms of at-will employment. This allows job termination for almost any reason in Colorado except if it violates public policy or a contract or was based on discrimination.  If your employees executed a nondisclosure or noncompete agreement, its contents should also be included.

Handbooks should contain a listing of benefits and eligibility. These usually include vacation and medical leave, health insurance, college savings plans, wellness programs, childcare and any workplace benefits.

Other important contents include a clause that the handbook is not a substitute for a formal employment contract, that the current handbook version supersedes older versions and   that it may be revised. The company’s mission statement and history are also helpful.

Procedures

Employees should sign an acknowledgment at the end of the handbook that they received and understand it. This may also contain a statement that policies may change and an invitation for worker suggestions and questions.

Handbooks should be reviewed every six months and updated each year. Employees need to review and sign acknowledgments for revised editions.

Exclusions

Overly restrictive social media use policies should be excluded. These policies may violate section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act and free speech rights.

Inflexible disciplinary procedures and policies should be left out. Reasonable flexibility helps supervisors deal with serious disciplinary problems.

Do not use irrelevant templates or forms that are unrelated to your business. Employers should draft or modify terms to specifically address their business, size, and culture.

A lawyer can assist employers draft policies that protect their interests and comply with federal and Colorado laws. Attorneys can also represent them in lawsuits.