Time for an Employee Handbook Review

October 14, 2022

For many employers, it is time to consider an annual handbook review.  Perhaps your business has decreased in size, and certain workplace policies are no longer applicable; on the flip side, your employee count has increased, and it’s time to implement new policies (think FMLA!).  Regardless of your business size, one of the most important policies an employer must have is an Unlawful Discrimination and Harassment policy.

There are many state and federal laws that combine to create an umbrella of protection for employees in the workplace.  Some of those laws include Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and the Washington Law Against Discrimination (WLAD).  Taken together, these state and federal laws protect individuals in a “protected class” from discrimination and harassment in the workplace.  “Protected class” includes characteristics, traits, or classifications such as race, national origin, gender, age, religion, sex and sexual orientation, pregnancy, and disability, among others.  Hence, an employer cannot make employment decisions based on an individual’s protected class or status, nor can an employee be targeted or harassed in the workplace by managers, supervisors, co-workers, or customers because of the employee’s protected class or status.

A written policy outlining the employer’s stance against discrimination and harassment in the workplace, the employee’s rights, and reporting responsibilities, and the employer’s commitment to investigate and appropriately discipline substantiated complaints is an important step to creating a safe, productive workplace for your employees. It is essential should the employer need to defend a workplace harassment claim.  Once your policy is created or updated, it is essential that you distribute it widely and provide training to your managers, supervisors, and employees, to ensure they understand how the policy works, how complaints will be addressed, and the disciplinary consequences for policy violations.

If you need assistance drafting or updating this essential workplace policy or are interested in live or recorded training for your managers, supervisors, and employees, contact the Associated Industries training program manager at training@aiin.com.  We’re here to help!