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It’s a New Year—Time to Review Your Employment Policies

Happy New Year!  In the spirit of out with the old and in with the new, now is a great time to review your employment policies and see if it’s time for an update.  Depending on your business, any one of the policies may need to be drafted or updated:

  • Sick, vacation and parental leave;
  • Non-discrimination;
  • Internet use and social media;
  • Non-competition and non-disclosure; and
  • Intellectual property use.

The need for and importance of each policy obviously varies depending on your particular business.  For instance, sick, vacation and parental leave policies are particularly important if the Family and Medical Leave Act applies to your business. 

Non-competition and non-disclosure agreements are particularly important for businesses with confidential customer lists or production processes, and must be assessed with a close eye to state law regarding enforceability of such agreements. 

Intellectual property use policies are important for businesses holding patents, trademarks and copyrights.  These issues can be complex to navigate where individual employees create intellectual property such as graphic designs on behalf of the employer and may wish to use those designs as part of a personal portfolio.  While it may not be necessary to allow such use, allowing some limited use may be a good recruiting tool and may help your business recruit and maintain quality employees.  A good intellectual property policy can protect the employer while allowing the employee certain limited uses at little risk to your business.

Internet use and social media policies are in the news on an almost daily basis, and the laws applicable to those policies are in flux.  It’s important to review these policies on a routine basis to take into account both changes in laws and in technology. 

One issue that bears watching with respect to social media is ownership of Twitter “handles” and follower lists.  For instance, an employer in South Carolina recently filed a lawsuit against a former employee because of his Twitter account.  The former employee had at one point (with the employer’s consent) incorporated the employer’s name in his Twitter “handle,” or name, and had broadcast tweets on behalf of his employer.  After the employee left and went into competition with the former employer the employee changed his handle but kept the follower list that he had built up during his former employment.  The employer now claims that the follower list was the functional equivalent of a protected customer list and that that the employer should be compensated for that list.  While it’s not clear if the employer will win the lawsuit, the employer’s concern is understandable, and ownership of work-related Twitter handles and follower lists can be dealt with in a carefully-crafted policy.

The new year is a great time to take a look at your employment policies to see what may need to be added or updated.  McBrayer can assist you with your policy review needs, whether as simple as reviewing existing policies or drafting all new ones. 

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