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Employee Manuals – Updating is the Best Defense continued…..

Rolling out policy changes appropriately is a necessary part of updating policies. A company can write and update its manual and have the most effective policies ever, but if they are not presented to the workforce in the proper way, policies are ineffective and just another stack of papers on everyone’s desk. Whatever your detailed course of roll-out, from individual meetings to a company-wide email, you have to go beyond announcing policy changes. Get written acknowledgements from every employee on every change. It is often common practice to issue updates and send out each policy change-by-change, like an addendum to the manual every few months. This is necessary to keep your employees aware of the changes occurring in the workplace policies. However, all those loose papers might get lost in the minutia of daily business and never actually make it into an employee’s manual. So the reality is employees may not be operating with an updated version of the manual. Re-issuing the employee manual in its entirety is the best policy to ensure that employees have the most up-to-date version; once a year should be sufficient, unless significant changes occur. This can be a mitigating factor in unemployment hearings – if an employee was terminated because of a policy violation and the employee had notice and acknowledged changes to the policies and procedures, the company generally has a better chance of justifying the termination for misconduct.

If nothing else has prompted you to take a look at your employee manual, social media should certainly give you pause. The way it weaves business and pleasure together is somewhat unnerving for an employer. The limits to its influence are unknown, but it is powerful, reaching millions.  Social media is the perfect impetus urging employers to re-consider workplace interactions, both online and off. How will this new online landscape factor into the way you conduct business? The straightforward answer, you have to have a social media policy to control how your business navigates this new frontier. As well, your social media policy has to survive the National Labor Relations Act (“NLRA”), while not limiting protected activity. It is completely up to the employer to set the boundaries on social media interaction and usage in the workplace. However, there are guidelines that must be considered. Outlining expectations of use at work, what an employee can and cannot post about the company while using social media, is a good place to start.  A strong and fair social media policy is complex and should be reviewed (as should all of your policies) by an attorney.

Employment law is constantly evolving which makes it necessary for employers to stay current with legislation on both the federal and state levels. Like the ever-changing landscape of how we conduct business – trends like social media always factor into our practices, too. The best defense is to update your employee manual to reflect these changes and protect both the employee and the company.

Jaron Blandford is a member of McBrayer, McGinnis, Leslie & Kirkland, PLLC and is located in the firm’s Lexington office. Mr. Blandford focuses his practice on civil litigation with an emphasis in all areas of labor and employment law. He can be reached at jblandford@mmlk.com or (859) 231-8780.

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