7 Employee Handbook Rules and Regulations to Stay Compliant in 2019
Your employee handbook is an essential resource for
communicating company policies with your team. It encourages fairness and
consistency within your small business by showing your staff that everyone is
subject to the same guidelines and expectations.
After you’ve created your employee handbook, it’s important
to regularly review your policies to ensure they comply with federal, state,
and local human resources (HR) laws. Check with government agencies – like the
Department of Labor (DOL), National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), Equal
Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), and Occupational Safety and Health
Administration (OSHA) – to make sure your company obeys current regulations.
Keep reading to learn about seven policies you might need to update this year.
1. Equal Employment Opportunity
Recently, many states have extended who is protected under
Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) laws. For example, medical marijuana users
and members of the LGBTQ+ community are now protected classes in several
The #MeToo movement has shined a light on many EEO, sexual
harassment, gender discrimination, and retaliation issues in the workplace. You
may have to
offer anti-harassment training focused on gender
identity and sexual orientation;
add statements about your commitment to not
discriminate against people based on gender identity or the fact that they were
a victim of a crime; and
provide a nongender, single-use restroom.
Besides complying with federal and state laws, EEO policies
are important for your small business because they set the expectation that
your company is committed to maintaining a work environment free of
discrimination and harassment of any kind. Your EEO policy should include
information about your hiring practices, instructions for submitting
discrimination and harassment complaints, and what disciplinary action will be
taken if the rules are violated.
2. Equal pay and wage discrimination
Equal pay and wage discrimination laws often go hand-in-hand
with EEO regulations. It’s important that your small business is paying all its
workers fairly. Review your compensation policies to ensure that you’re not practicing
wage discrimination, particularly based on gender.
Many states are expanding their wage discrimination laws to include
prohibiting employers from asking staff and job candidates about their salary
history. Some states are even preventing employers from banning wage
discussions among coworkers.
3. Reasonable accommodations
States and localities around the country are expanding or
adding to their current reasonable accommodation laws. Some states now require
employers to provide paid breaks for anyone who needs to express breastmilk for
her nursing child, up to one year after the child’s birth.
New laws may now require you to provide public access to employee
restrooms under certain conditions and provide safe accommodations to anyone
who has been sexually assaulted or is experiencing domestic violence or
4. Leaves of absence
Several states are changing or updating their laws concerning
paid family leave, leave and reinstatement rights for military service members,
leave, and domestic violence leave.
Each leave law has its own definitions concerning which workers
are covered, the size of the employer, and how to comply with the law. When
you’re reviewing your leave policies,
make it clear to your team
who is eligible,
how many hours are available,
how the time accrues,
whether the time can be carried over from year
how to request time off,
how much notice is required, and
whether the leave is paid of unpaid.
You also might consider including what types of absences are
covered under each leave policy. For example, taking a child to the doctor
might be covered under your sick leave policy.
5. Safe driving
OSHA requires all employers provide safe workplaces for its workers.
If any of your team members are required to drive while on the job, pay close
attention to changes made to your state or local laws.
For example, many states are now restricting or prohibiting
cell phone use while driving. If any staff members drive while working, include
a policy stating that all traffic laws must be obeyed and include the potential
disciplinary actions of violating the policy.
6. Smoke-free workplaces
As part of providing a safe work environment, most states
have expanded the definition of “smoke-free” to include prohibiting the use of e-cigarettes
and other tobacco substitutes in the workplace. Review your smoke-free policy
to ensure it includes all prohibited actions and that it states the location of
your designated smoking area.
7. Weapons in the workplace
Many states have laws concerning whether employees can keep a
gun in their vehicle when it’s parked in a company parking lot. After
determining your state’s laws concerning guns, review your company’s policy to
ensure it follows the law. If you and your state allow staff members to keep
guns in their vehicles, include clearly written guidelines concerning whether
the worker must always keep the vehicle locked and the gun hidden from plain
What to do after updating your employee handbook
After you’ve updated your handbook to comply with federal,
state, and local HR laws, consider asking an employment attorney to review it to
ensure you’re complying with all regulations.