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Employee handbook issues to watch in 2018

The world is ever-changing. And arguably nowhere more so than the U.S. With the new administration focused on deregulation as well as state and local making changes to workplace law, 2018 will be an important time to review your employee handbook.

The policies in an employee handbook are used by employers to protect themselves from lawsuits, such as harassment claims, wrongful employment termination claims and discrimination claims. Employee handbooks also often contain a code of conduct for employees that establishes expectations for appropriate behavior in the workplace. And as a result, employee handbooks are in the best interests of both the business and the employees.

Changing times, changing issues

Here’s a rundown of the changing issues that may well warrant employee handbook revisions:

  • Sexual harassment: With sexual harassment being a nearly daily news story, this would be the time to make sure your policy is up-to-date and the handbook offers multiple reporting avenues.
  • Workplace conduct and social media use: The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has overruled the standard that deemed policies unlawful if reasonably interpreted to limit labor rights by halting employee discussion referencing wages and working conditions. The board could continue to rule in this direction during 2018.
  • Parental leave: With nearby California expanding their parental leave laws, this year will be the time to watch this issue in Arizona. Many companies are offering paid leave as a benefit. It’s recommended to use terms like primary and secondary caretaker instead of mother and father.
  • Disability and accommodations: Employers should be reviewing their policies regarding leave and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). With medical marijuana legal in Arizona, businesses should consult with an experienced business law attorney before taking any adverse action following a positive drug test for marijuana. Currently, there is a suit in federal court for alleged violations of the ADA based on use of medications, and for "unlawful discrimination in violation of the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act."
  • Arbitrations: With pending federal cases related to the enforceability of arbitration agreements, this is an area to monitor.

If your business is multi-state, adding a state-specific supplement can be a good option to keep current. Consulting with a comprehensive business law attorney can help you evaluate your employee handbook’s compliance with federal and state employment law.

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