How long has it been since you issued the all-important Employee Handbook? When was the last time it was updated? If you’re like most employers, it’s been a while. Left on the shelf it will not, Like fine wine, improve with age. Have you evaluated the hiring application used by your company? Chances are it has also gathered dust over the years without being updated. Yet the law shifts and changes, making some policies and procedures obsolete, and some even illegal.
Employee benefits, such as health care, are seeing significant changes with implementation of ObamaCare (aka, the Affordable Care Act) and now with changes being made by the Trump Administration. Employers should be evaluating whether their plans are or can be grandfathered, whether they are required to provide employees notice of health care exchanges and/or changes to the company’s health care plan to comply with the changes in the law. These matters are often addressed in Employee Handbooks, and an employer should be careful to make sure the information provided to employees is up to date.
Then there’s the social media privacy legislation that was signed into law by Washington Governor Gregoire. Do your device and internet use policies need to be changed? Are you using social media websites to “preview” job applicants? This could be evidence of discrimination if it is used to screen out people over the age of 40, for example.
Seattle employers, you should be aware of an ordinance which took effect way back on November 1, 2013 that prohibits employers from making hiring decisions on the basis of an applicant’s criminal history.
Washington courts have held that handbook language can confer contractual rights, significant care should be taken to ensure a handbook contains the proper disclaimers and appropriate conditional language. For example, including language that the handbook is not a contract or a guarantee of specific treatment in individual situations.
In short, an employer is well-advised to audit (or have an external audit) of its personnel policies, practices, and employee handbooks on a regular basis. If you need assistance, please contact Gail.Luhn@LuhnLawPLLC.com.