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  • Writer's pictureJennie Tannenbaum

A New School Year and Employee Handbooks

The new school year is upon us. The weather is changing and kids will need new school supplies, new clothes and shoes. This time of year feels like fresh starts and new beginnings.

What does the new school year have to do with employee handbooks?

The fall is the perfect time to conduct an annual review of your employee handbook. As an employer you need to ensure that a regular and thorough review of your existing handbook is conducted to make certain that it is up to date and in compliance with any new changes that may have occurred in the law, since you last updated it.

What, you haven’t updated it at all? Well then it’s time to do so, because an outdated one can easily be a liability to your company. What, you don’t have an employee handbook? It’s time to get one, so that the company is not vulnerable to lawsuits.

A rule of thumb is that every company should have a handbook if it has employees. The handbook should set guidelines and expectations for the employee as to what their conduct should conform to in the workplace. It should contain clear policy as to what is expected of them while delineating standard policy on various topics, such as, vacation, time off, discipline, etc.

The contents of the handbook will vary from industry to industry and should be customized to fit the needs of your industry. A handbook that is copied off the internet will not be customized to fit the needs of your particular industry and could well leave your company open to a lawsuit.

The handbook should contain clear and well defined policies so that all employees can be treated equally. Having such clear and well defined policies will assist supervisors in treating employees equally when a situation arises, such as, when disciplinary action is to be applied.

For example, in the state of Massachusetts where medicinal and recreational marijuana is legal, without a clear and well defined drug policy, supervisors will not know what action to take when an employee comes to work high. When you have a drug policy in place it will direct the supervisor as to what action to take in this situation. This is a very real scenario in Massachusetts that you should be prepared for and a well-defined drug policy will ensure that you are prepared.

A good handbook can assist with your company’s defense if you are sued by an employee. For example, an employee might sue on the basis that she was terminated because of discrimination. In Massachusetts the employer must prove that the actual reason for termination was not discrimination. If you can demonstrate that the employer took action based upon a clear policy in the handbook to terminate this is a strong defense. This shows that the reason to fire was not an arbitrary one, but instead a result of written company policy that was followed. This is a good example that your handbook can and will be used as a legal document that can either assist in your defense or assist in your demise in a lawsuit.

As your company grows and diversifies the handbook should be updated to safeguard you from lawsuits. So, even if it’s not the beginning of the school year and there are changes to employment laws or your company has changed make sure you update it, while always remembering that the beginning of the school year is the time for the annual review of it.

If you don’t have a handbook, I can draft one customized for your company. Or I can review and update your existing handbook to ensure that it’s in compliance with the law and the best one for your company and your employees.

This article is for information purposes only and is not meant to be construed as legal advice. Contact me at or at 978-681-0017.

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