The holiday season is a time to spend time with friends and family, attend holiday parties, and eat good food. But for employers, it is also a time to reflect on the past year and prepare for the year ahead. While you’re busy wrapping presents and finishing last minute shopping, do not forget to update your employee handbooks as you head into the New Year.
A good employee handbook is one of the most underrated tools for an employer’s defense of legal claims made employees. And an out-of-date handbook not in compliance with the most recent state and federal laws will only increase an employer’s risk of legal exposure as it is one of the most sought-after pieces of evidence in an employment dispute. Thus, an annual employee handbook review is one of the best ways to stay ahead of the curve as employment laws are ever-changing.
Over the last year, there has been the emergence of several new employment laws. It is time to make your list and check it twice to make sure your handbook contains all the fixings and aligns with these newest employment laws and trends:
- On June 27, 2023, the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA) went into effect. The PWFA now requires employers grant reasonable accommodations to any job applicant or employee who has a “known limitation” due to pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical condition, unless doing so imposes an undue hardship. Your employee handbook should be updated to identify “pregnancy” as a protected class and your accommodation request section should note that an employee or applicant will not face retaliation for requesting an accommodation related to pregnancy;
- The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) recently released a new rule for whether work rules violate the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). Under the new standard, a handbook policy violates the Act if it has a “reasonable tendency” to dissuade workers from engaging in organized activity. Policies that may face increased scrutiny include social media policies; non-disparagement policies; civility policies; insubordination policies; confidentiality policies; and recording policies; and
- With the increase of remote workers, more and more employers have become multi-state employers. It is best practice that multistate employers ensure their employee handbooks are compliant with applicable state and local laws where their employees are physically located, sent to work on assignments, or work remotely by drafting state-specific addendums. Employers should therefore routinely monitor where remote workers reside as state law requirements have evolved over the last year. For example, various states outside of Oklahoma have passed mandatory paid sick leave laws, and employee handbooks should be revised to lay out the new requirements.
With the New Year right around the corner, employers should consider updating their employee handbooks in time to roll out any changes by January 1, 2024. Your handbook should be a guidepost for employees and provide all policies unique to your business.