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Employee Handbook

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It is becoming increasingly important for organizations to have an employee handbook. Not only it addresses the general rules and guidelines which are applicable to all the employees present in the organization, it is actually helps the employees against law suits and gives them legal protection. The presence of a handbook is a benefit for the employer as well as the employee (HRSentry, 2010)

An employee handbook outlines the policies, procedures and general guidelines of an organization. For any relationship, effective communication plays an important role. In case of the employee and employer relationship, this handbook acts as a mode of communication outlining the expectations of the employer and his guidelines which he wants to be followed. In order to make this relationship work, the employee has to follow these guidelines and rules and act according to the policies mentioned in this handbook. It gives an opportunity to both the employer and employee. The employee has an opportunity to know his organization and employer in a better way and the employer are able to develop a connection between himself and his employee. An employee handbook however, does not lay down the policies and standard operating procedures, rather gives a general outline or a general philosophy behind the current policies and standards. It also answers several questions which en employee might have for example: To whom should I report a problem? What if I have a conflict with someone? Whom should I report to? What is the attendance policy? What is a work week? These are general questions which employees might have but would not know whom to go to. Therefore, a handbook solves this problem by giving the employees a way of communicating with their employers (Morrissey, 2010).

The detail present in an employee handbook is dependent on the complexity of the organization and what it wants to include in its handbook. The mission, size and location of the organization might also affect the contents of the handbook. However, as mentioned above that the employer should consider it as an opportunity to present his organization in a positive light and communicate with the employees, the employers tend to present many things which might be beneficial for the employees in the future.

Organizations include statements for anti discrimination policies, equal employment policies and harassment policies. The explanations of these policies and whom to report to in such an instant are given. More complex organizations might also include family and medical leave acts or statutes concerning health insurance. Below are a few important things which an employee handbook might cover:


Military Service



Attire Requirements

Performance Review


Personal Time Off

Communication Policy

Probationary Period



Continuation Of Medical Benefits

Retirement Plans


Safety And Accident Rules

Dress Code

Salary Paid Employees

Drugs And Alcohol

Separation From Employment

Employment Classification

Sexual Harassment

Equal Opportunity

Sick Leave

Exit Interview


Family Medical Leave Act

Substance Abuse

Health And Life Insurance



Time Off

Hourly Paid Employees/Overtime

Use Of Company Computers

Immigration Law Compliance

Use Of Company Property

Jury Duty

Workman's Compensation

Layoff And Recall


Lunch Periods

Maternity Leave


and more.

An employee handbook is actually aimed to protect the employees from any kind of pitfall of mishap. Any promises made in the employee handbook re to be followed by the employer. If the employer is unable to provide a handbook, the employees might not know the general guidelines or behavior he should exhibit in the workplace. For example; In Arizona an employee had a law suit against the employer. This law suit was placed due to severance by the employer.  However, the employee did not read the handbook and therefore was unaware of many general guidelines which the employer wanted all the employees to follow. One of such rule was the prohibition of using company’s computers for personal mails. Moreover the handbook also stated that the employer at any time might access the computer and has the complete right to see any information present on the computer as this computer is for business use and not for personal use. The employee was constantly communicating with his lawyer about the law suit via the computer present in his office without any knowledge about this prohibition against persona use of computers. The employer who accessed the computer found out what the employee was up to and therefore the employee then had to drop his lawsuit, as he was himself doing something wrong. Had the employee read the employee handbook and had known that it was unlawful to use company’s computers for personal use; he could have mailed his lawyer form elsewhere and therefore would have been able to get justice. However as he was doing something wrong himself, he was not able to do anything about the employer (DiLorenzo, 2010)

The above example reflects the importance of the presence of an employee handbook but most importantly the importance of reading and understanding this handbook. Many employees think that the handbook is actually made to help the organization avoid lawsuits if it does anything wrong. The employer can merely fir anyone without any reason and would not be sued as it was in his policy. However this is not so, the employee handbook is actually for the benefit of the employee more than the benefit of the employer. A employer has to follow various state and government rules and regulations before printing any rules of his own. The employer cannot say that he does not hire black people because that would be discriminatory and hence against eh anti-discrimination laws of the government. Therefore, the employer actually ahs to follow many guidelines of the government before putting any policies and making any generalized rules for his employees. The employee on the other hand has full benefit of this handbook. For example; if an employer does not give a paid funeral leave, however it has been mentioned in his handbook that a funeral is something which is difficult for an employee to miss therefore the organization will give full paid funeral leave, this employee can then sue the company. However, this is only possible if the employee has read the employee handbook clearly because there are certain things which might affect this rule. For example; a funeral leave is only available if the relative is a close one, for a very distant relative’s funeral the employee might get a leave however might not get full pay. SO there are various complications too and it is only after reading an employee handbook that employee will be able to understand the general rules, guidelines presented by the organization.

The employee can also place a lawsuit if the employer is unable to follow his own policies presented in the employee handbook. In one case according to Farell (2008), an employer had a very descriptive and effective handbook; however when an employee filed a sexual harassment complaint against another employee, the manager was not able to conduct a proper investigation. The employer did not know about this as he himself did not investigate whether proper steps had been taken to ensure that the employee was satisfied and correct action has been taken. The employee then took the employer to court, where the judge considered it as ‘an indifferent attitude and ordered employer to pay a hefty amount to the employee as a compensation for what he went through in his organization. Hence it can be seen that when if the handbook is present, it is essential for both the parties to read and make sure that they understand every aspect of the policies and guidelines presented in the handbook.

As per the United States equal employment opportunity commission in 2005 various companies had to pay a sum of almost $378 million in order to compensate for various lawsuits which the employees placed against their employers. According to EEOC in 2007 it had received a total of 87,792 complaints from employees against their employers (David, 2008)

On the other hand, an employee handbook also saves an employee from lawsuits which he might be subjected to. If an employee has read the employee handbook properly, he will know his rights and will know whatever he is doing in the organization is right. He will act as per the guidelines and neither the employer nor any customer can sue him for doing anything wrong. There has been much increase in the number of lawsuits filed against employers and employees both, due to this miscommunication between both parties. Moreover, negligence, indifference and merely skimming through the report affect the understanding of organizational policies.

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