How to write an employee manual.

Author:Williams, Thomas
Position:Human Resources

Lawyers representing employees and former employees regularly use employee manuals or handbooks in employment litigation. As a result, you should draft your manual with the same care you would use to prepare a legal contract.

At-will provision--Your employee manual should start with the "at-will" policy (see box). Michigan courts are now regularly enforcing such provisions allowing capable defense lawyers to easily defend many wrongful discharge claims.

Disabilities Act--The Michigan Persons With Disabilities Act requires that an employee seeking accommodation provide written notice within 182 days of the date that he or she knows that accommodation is required. This provision is applicable, however, only when the employer provides notice.

Family and Medical Leave Act--The U.S. Department of Labor requires FMLA-covered employers to include information concerning FMLA entitlements and employee obligations in the employee handbook or some similar document.

Harassment--Clearly state your company's lack of tolerance for any form of sexual harassment and instruct employees to report any harassment, in writing, to the supervisor, manager or company director of their choosing.

Limitation on lawsuits--Last year, the Michigan Court of Appeals upheld written provisions requiring that claims against the employer be brought within 180 days. This limitation should be placed within an employment application and your employee manual.

Confidential information/e-mail and Internet--Your rules regarding confidentiality should be explained in the handbook. Employee obligations to safeguard the confidential information also must be included.

Employer benefits--While benefit descriptions may attract employees, employers need to reserve the right to modify or eliminate benefits as well as clearly stating that the summary plan description and/or plan document for the particular benefit controls in the event of any conflict with the employee handbook description.

Discipline and discharge--Include this information only if you are positive that you will follow the procedures as if they were part of a written employment contract.

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