By: Tracy Billows

Although employers are not required by law to have employee handbooks, if an employer chooses to go down such a path, legal compliance and being current with latest trends is a must. A non-compliant employee handbook can be used in claims of discrimination, union grievances, and other employee-employer disputes. Does your employee handbook need to be updated? Test your knowledge of latest legal trends in employee handbooks.

True or False?

Employers should consider including a pregnancy accommodation policy in its handbook.

True. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission issued Guidance in July, 2014 on pregnancy discrimination and related issues, including addressing accommodations of pregnant workers. Additionally, the issue of accommodating pregnant workers is on the U.S. Supreme Court’s agenda. A decision on this issue (Young v. UPS) is expected by the U.S. Supreme Court later this year. Regardless of the federal legal landscape, states and municipalities are passing pregnancy accommodation laws that require accommodation of pregnant workers, and in most cases provide greater rights and protections. Thus, employers need to review their employee handbooks for this issue.

True or False?

Non-union employers do not need to worry about the National Labor Relations Board guidance on Handbooks.

False. The National Labor Relations Act applies to all employers – union and non-union. The NLRB has been very active in challenging policies and handbooks of non-union employers, especially in the areas of Social Media, Employer Confidential Information and Rules of Conduct. All employers should be reviewing their handbooks in light of this guidance.

True or False?

There should be a carve out for the employment at will policy in any handbook that references the employer’s ability to change at any time any of the employer’s policies in the handbook.

True. It is best practice to include in any handbook a reference to an employer’s right to revise, modify or eliminate any policy at any time – except for the policy of at-will employment. An employer does not want to concede that a mere policy or handbook change can result in any changes to the at-will employment relationship that governs in most workplaces. It is important to maintain the at-will employment policy and relationship to prevent wrongful termination claims and breach of contract claims.

True or False?

We reviewed and revised our employee handbook in 2014 so we do not need to review again in 2015.

False. 2015 is shaping up to be a busy year in terms of employment law changes. The Department of Labor issued a final rule on same sex spouses and the Family Medical Leave Act.  Numerous states have paid sick leave laws taking effect in 2015. Pregnancy accommodation laws are continuing to be proposed and enacted. There are many other issues on the horizon and employers need to be paying attention to these developments.

How did you do? If you have any questions about this topic, please contact the author, who is also co-chair of Seyfarth’s Workplace Policies and Handbook Team, or your Seyfarth attorney.