Choosing the employment policies that are right for your company is a big deal. Things like dress code requirements, remote working options, and time off allowances can have an enormous impact on your company’s culture and the happiness of your employees. There are some policies, though, you simply must have in place – the kind that can protect you and your company in the event of an employee-related issue.
So where do you start? How do you know what types of policies and documents you need to create? Well, we created this blog post to answer these very questions. At a high level, there are three items we suggest all companies have in place:
- A Confidentiality and Non-Disclosure Agreement to protect your company’s confidential information and trade secrets
- A Sexual Harassment Policy (either standalone or in an Employee Handbook)
- An Employee Handbook that welcomes employees, sets expectations, and answers common questions for employees, as well as, lays the ground work for a defense in the event of legal claims.
Confidentiality and Non-Disclosure Agreement
As an employer it is necessary that you protect your confidential information like inventions, processes, and client lists from disclosure from your employees. This can be done in two ways: a confidentiality policy in an Employee Handbook or a separate written agreement signed by employees that includes confidentiality, non-disclosure obligations, and an invention assignment for intellectual property (IP).
The latter option is preferred as it provides clarity of what information is considered confidential, as well as clarity on IP ownership, has a deterrent effect on the employee, and expands the employer’s rights and remedies, including requiring the employee to pay attorney’s fees in the event of an unauthorized disclosure.
Sexual Harassment Policy
Sexual harassment is a hot topic. In fact, I wrote a blog post a few months ago outlining the importance of training employees on this very issue.
To assert an affirmative defense to certain claims of sexual harassment, you must prove (1) you, as the employer, executed reasonable care to prevent and correct harassing behavior by having a sexual harassment policy and providing training, and (2) the employee unreasonably failed to take advantage of any preventative or corrective opportunities or to otherwise avoid harm.
Sexual harassment policies can be a separate, stand-alone policy or included in an Employee Handbook.
Last, but certainly not least, your company should have an Employee Handbook. It not only welcomes employees, sets expectations, and answers common questions for employees, but it can assist you in defense of legal claims.
Here are our top suggested employment policies and content to include in an Employee Handbook:
- Welcome Statement – brief description of your company, mission statement, contact information for questions, etc.
- Employee Acknowledgement – two copies signed by each employee acknowledging that they have received and reviewed the handbook, understand that employment is at-will, and understand the employer may modify or change policies at any time without notice
- Standards of Conduct Policy – performance expectations like behavior towards others, respect for company property, smoking only in designated areas, etc.
- IT Resources and Communications Systems Policy – prohibit activities, such as use of personal IT resources, allow searches of all IT resources, as well as set social media standards if employees use social media for work purposes
- Workplace Violence Policy – provide a procedure for reporting violence and weapons, but be mindful of state “guns-at-work laws” including Indiana
- Substance Abuse in the Workplace Policy – a description of what substances are banned and when (i.e., while on the job, using company vehicles, when representing the company), as well as any exceptions like work parties
- Drug/Alcohol Testing Policy – a description of what type of testing will occur (alcohol, illegal drugs) and when the testing can occur - pre-employment, post-accident, reasonable suspicion, or random
- Paid Time Off/Vacation Policy – number of vacation or sick days allotted to the employee and policy for accrued vacation days following voluntary or involuntary termination of employment being mindful that many states, such as Indiana, consider accrued vacation as earned wages that must be paid upon termination unless there is a written policy to the contrary
- Leave of Absence Policies – these vary by state and federal law, but include things like military, bereavement, pregnancy and parental leave, jury duty, and medical leave
- Violations of Employee Handbook Policy – dictates disciplinary action for failing to comply with company policies
So that’s it – the list of our top suggested employment policies. Do you have all of them in place? If not, or you have any questions, feel free to give me a call at 765.423.7900 or send me an email at Shannon.Middleton@gutweinlaw.com.