Customizable Employee Handbook

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Instant handbook for your business … online!

Want to avoid the high cost and hassles of creating an Employee Handbook from scratch? The Texas Restaurant Association has a solution—an interactive, web-based program enabling you to customize a comprehensive handbook with all the elements covered in this section. Your answers to 12-14 questions will be used to create a custom version for your business, and it will be delivered to your e-mail address as a printable text file. You'll save time and money and have a high quality product ready to give to each of your employees. Simple and affordable enough for any foodservice business!

Special offer - just $24.95

(Before I buy, show me how it works)

Customizable Employee Handbooks
Every company operates according to the nature of its operation, management and personnel. No two restaurants are alike, and no two company policy manuals should be exactly alike. Therefore, the following are suggestions only and are not meant to be definitive or absolute. This guide should not be used in lieu of legal advice. You should have your version reviewed by an attorney. Jacob Monty, of The Monty Law Firm, specializes in labor and employment law and may be contacted at (281) 493-5529.

One of the most common mistakes employers make is simply allowing company policies to evolve. Policies and procedures created on an ad hoc basis can lead to confusion, chaos and sometimes claims of discrimination or wrongful termination. If that happens, it can be a costly and time-consuming experience for an employer.

Employee handbooks help to avoid potential lawsuits and establish uniform personnel practices. When done correctly, an employee handbook is an invaluable personnel tool. It provides the company with a human resources road map. Doing it correctly, of course, is the key.

When writing policy, keep in mind the old adage less is more. Be sure the handbook states guidelines concisely. Avoid being ambiguous or vague. Remember that in the event of a lawsuit, any ambiguities in the handbook could be construed against the company.

Here are some tips on writing a policy handbook:

* Keep it simple. Every employee should be able to read and understand the handbook in its entirety.
* Do not use the word "permanent" to describe employees. This could be construed as a promise of guaranteed employment.
* All personnel policies should be included in the handbook. Every aspect of the employment relationship should be addressed.
* Obtain written acknowledgment of receipt of the handbook from all employees.
* Advise all employees of any revisions or additions.

The following are the major topics which should be covered in an employee handbook.

You will need to add any additional policies which are specific to your business.

2.Equal Opportunity
5.Leave From Work
6.House Rules
8.Trade Secrets

10.Sexual Harassment
11.Grievances & Complaints

Customizable Employee Handbook – Order Online!
Created by the Texas Workforce Commission
Edited by Glen Garey, General Counsel, Texas Restaurant Association
Reviewed by Jacob Monty, The Monty Law Firm, specializing in labor and employment law

The customizable Employee Handbook file includes a welcome note to all employees and covers all of the following critical policies:
* Equal opportunity
* No harassment policy
* Hours of work
* Payroll checks distribution policy
* Attendance policy
* Vacation
* Sick leave
* Military leave
* Jury duty
* Family and medical leave
* Personal leaves of absence
* Authorization for absence
* Work rules
* Alcohol service policy
* Appearance, dress and hygiene policy
* Employee safety
* Drug abuse policy
* Solicitation
* Security
* Computer and telephone policy
* Trade secrets
* Employee complaints (arbitration)
* Termination of employment
* Receipt and acknowledgment of employee handbook
* Arbitration agreement

Save time. Save money. Most important, get a convenient tool that clearly conveys all of your policies to employees - and can help protect you from legal liability.

Disclaimers Handbook Checklist
* State that the handbook is meant to set policy and is to be used only as a guideline.
* State affirmatively that the handbook is not intended to imply any contract or contractual rights.
* State that the employer reserves the right to change or modify the contents of the handbook at any time without prior notice to employees.
* Identify individuals who have authority to modify the handbook and specifically exclude all others.

Make sure to avoid the appearance of continued employment. Do not state that employees will only be terminated for cause. Employers should carefully review any completed handbook prior to distribution and eliminate language that might be construed as a guarantee. A clear statement of employer’s intentions to simply set policies can minimize disputes requiring court intervention.
Equal Opportunity

Equal Opportunity Handbook Checklist
* State the company’s anti discrimination policy.
* State that all recruiting, hiring, training and promotion decisions will comply with the principle of equal employment opportunity.

The various laws governing equal employment opportunity make it illegal to discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, age (40 and over), national origin, disability or handicap. The rights most commonly covered are related to the following:

* Termination Layoffs and recall
* Seniority Salary/pay scale
* Pregnancy Sick Leave
* Promotion Discipline
* Transfer Benefits
* Hiring (application, testing and non job related requirements)

Compensation Handbook Checklist
* List the company’s regularly scheduled paydays.
* State the policy for distributing payroll checks.
* Explain the company’s policy on bonuses or other non-salary payments.
* Describe the policy on overtime compensation.
* Who is eligible
* Is advance permission or authorization required?
* When is overtime permitted?

Include payday information in the handbook. Outline regularly scheduled pay periods. State company procedure when a payday falls on a holiday.

Benefits Handbook Checklist
* List all benefits offered by the company.
* Include the policy on health insurance, workers’ compensation, bonus or profit sharing plans, pension funds, vacation, employee discounts and any other benefits offered.
* State the differences for temporary and part time employees, if any.
* State the compensation policy for holidays or vacation.
* State the policy on employee benefits in the event of an employee’s separation from the company.

Failure to have a written policy on compensation for unused sick and vacation time can cause serious problems for employers. In many cases, without something in writing, practice can become policy. Employers should keep in mind, however, that any promises made in writing must be kept.

Leave From Work

* Vacation Leave
* Sick Leave
* Military Leave
* Jury Duty
* Funeral Leave
* Personal Leave
* Medical Leave
* Employer Latitude in Granting Leave

Leave from work Handbook Checklist

Vacation Leave:

* State which employees are entitled to vacation; i.e. full time vs. temporary or part time employees.
* Explain when vacation is accrued and how it may be and whether it can be carried over to the next year.
* Explain if there is a distinction between those who voluntarily separate from the company and those who are discharged. State the company policy for payment of unused vacation in the event of layoffs or other work separations.

Sick Leave:

* State which employees are entitled to sick leave; i.e. full time vs. temporary or part time employees.
* Explain how sick leave is accrued and describe the company’s policy for carrying over sick leave and whether employees will be paid for unused sick leave upon separation from the company.
* Define the company policy for entitlement to sick leave and whether proof of illness could be required.

Military Leave:

* Explain that the company provides military leave to regular, full time employees.
* State that the company complies with the law with respect to job reinstatement.
* State that an employee must notify the employer immediately when called to active duty.
* Notice should include anticipated duration of service and when the employee expects to return to work.

Jury Duty:

* Explain that the company recognizes leave to serve on juries.
* State that the company complies with federal and state laws with respect to reinstatement when jury service is complete.
* Explain that an employee called for jury service must immediately notify the company.
* State whether the Company pays for jury service (pay is not required and jurors are often given some small compensation for service by the court)
* State that an employee is expected to be available to return to work immediately after the case concludes or the court recesses for the day.

Funeral Leave:

* State whether the company provides for funeral leave.
* Identify which employees are entitled to funeral leave.
* Establish which family relationships qualify for funeral leave. For example, immediate family only, etc.
* Explain how much time is permitted and what, if any, provisions there are for extending time.
* State what, if any, provisions there are for taking time off without pay.
* State the policy regarding notifying the company in the case of a death in the family.

Personal Leave:

* State whether the company provides personal leave.
* If so, state what constitutes "personal leave."
* Explain when personal leave can be taken and give the details on length of time allowed, procedure for requesting time, etc.

Medical Leave:

* Describe the company policy concerning a prolonged medical leave or absence.
* Explain the difference between sick leave and medical leave of absence.
* Note: pregnancy must be treated like any other medical condition.
* State the amount of medical leave allowed with or without pay, and explain whether an employee is first required to exhaust all unused vacation and sick leave.
* Explain whether the employee continues to accrue vacation and sick leave during a medical leave of absence.
* Discuss whether verification of the medical condition is required and, if so, whether the employee or the company selects the doctor.
* State the company’s policy about returning to work. Include consequences for unauthorized failure to return.
* Explain the company’s policy on reinstatement to the same position upon return, and what happens if that position no longer exist or has been filled.

Employer Latitude in Granting Leave
For the most part, employers have a great deal of latitude on how much or how little leave they give employees. There are certain times, however, when it is illegal to penalize employees for being off the job. For example, employees in the military who are called to active duty are entitled to return to the same jobs unless the employers’ circumstances have changed so much that reinstatement is impossible.

The same is true for employees summoned for jury duty. Employees called to serve on federal juries are protected by federal law from discharge. The Fair Labor Standards Act also makes it illegal to deduct the absences of exempt employees who serve on juries for one week or less.

Employers with fifty or more employees in a 75-mile radius are subject to the Family and Medical Leave Act. This Act requires employers to give up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to their employees who have worked for that employer for the preceding 12 months if it is used for the employee’s illness, the illness of an immediate family member or the birth or adoption of a child.

Subject to these restrictions, employers may establish any policy leave from work they desire. If leave is promised in a written policy or agreement, the leave is an enforceable employment agreement and the written policy or agreement can be enforced according to what pay it provides. The company policy will govern whether or not the employee is entitled to receive this pay. Therefore, it is imperative that the handbook state the policy regarding unused vacation and sick leave. If the policy is silent, employers may need to be prepared to pay for unused leave.

The handbook should explain how sick leave and vacation time is actually earned. For example, is the time earned on a monthly basis, by pay period, or after a certain period of service with the company, such as one year? Employers should keep in mind that any written promise to compensate employees for unused sick or vacation time should be kept. At the same time, failure to put a policy in writing can cause serious problems. Practice can often become policy when questions on compensation arise.

House Rules Handbook Checklist
* List the house rules clearly in the company policy.
* State the consequence or punishment for breaking house rules.
* Specify that house rules apply to all employees.

Every business has certain rules of decorum to ensure mutual respect and courtesy among employees. These codes of conduct should be briefly covered in the handbook.

Topics most frequently discussed include:

* Handling company funds
* Hours of work
* Customer relations
* Dress code
* Parking
* Professional courtesy and consideration
* Safety rules (including sanitation)
* Soliciting other workers for the sale of goods or services unrelated to the company
* Alcohol service policies (when applicable)
* Tip reporting (when applicable)

Absenteeism Handbook Checklist
* State the company policy on attendance, tardiness and absenteeism
* Distinguish between exempt and non-exempt employees.
* State the consequences for violation of the policy.
* When are written warnings warranted?
* When can employees be terminated?
* What happens in a no show/no call situation?
* State the procedure for notifying the employer in case of an absence.
* Whom should the employee notify?
* How should the notice be given, and by what time?
* What are the consequences for failing to give proper notice?
* What is expected in the event an employee cannot reach the contact person in the company?
* Emphasize the need to follow policy and procedure as a courtesy to other employees.

Employers should keep accurate attendance records. Any warnings given to employees for excessive absences or tardiness should be in writing. Record the reason, if any, given by the employee for the absence or tardy arrival. This documentation should be kept in the employee’s personnel file. This documentation will be helpful if there is ever a problem with an employee warranting disciplinary action. Use consistent and uniform discipline for violations of the policy.

Trade Secrets Handbook Checklist
* State the general company policy regarding trade secrets (recipes etc...)
* Define a trade secret and provide examples peculiar to the company‘s business.

It is unfair competition to steal, copy or communicate or transmit a former employer’s trade secret information. A trade secret is defined as "the whole or any part of any scientific or technical information, design, process, procedure, formula, or improvement that has value and that the owner has taken measures to prevent from becoming available to persons other than those selected by the owner to have access for limited purposes

Employers should make clear what information is considered confidential or a trade secret. They must also take certain precautions in connection with that information. For example, employers should label restricted information as confidential. Some companies require employees to sign an acknowledgment of confidentiality or a nondisclosure agreement. Such documents will identify the kinds of information that is to be treated as a trade secret. These agreements may also notify employees of the remedies the employer will pursue in the event there is an unauthorized use of the information.

Drug Policy Handbook Checklist
* Explain the company’s desire to maintain a drug and alcohol free workplace.
* State the position of the company with respect to illegal use of drugs and alcohol.
* State the requirement that all employees provide prior written acknowledgment of the policy and consent to tests and searches.
* Outline the consequences of a positive test result.
* Where applicable, explain any or all employee assistance programs.

Employers have a duty to provide safe work environments. Failure to fulfill this duty can lead to costly litigation. The increased frequency of substance abuse in the workplace has led many employers to institute drug policies and to implement routine drug testing. The standard drug policy makes clear what conduct is prohibited and lists penalties for violations. The policy should prohibit use, possession or being under the influence of alcohol or drugs on company property due to the adverse effect it has on the employee's work performance and other employees.

Require employees taking any medication that can cause any degree of impairment to notify their employer or supervisor. Notify employees if the company reserves the right to conduct reasonable searches (of employees, their work areas or any vehicles on company property) to monitor drug policy compliance. Notify employees that the employer has the right to conduct medical tests of employees’ hair, blood or urine. Make clear that refusal after fair warning to submit to a search or test can lead to immediate discharge. Communicate the company policy in writing to all employees.

Testing Employees
Reasons to test an employee include:

* Compliance with company policy.
* Compliance with any applicable laws or regulations.
* Documentation of the employer’s efforts to provide a safe workplace.

Reasons not to test an employee include:

* Expensive and complicated procedure.
* Potential for decreasing employee morale.
* Litigation risk: invasion of privacy, discrimination and/or breach of employment agreement.
* Risk of changes in law.

Before submitting to a drug test, employees and applicants for employment should provide signed, written consent forms authorizing the test and release of the results. When a drug policy is contained in the handbook, it is a good idea to have employees acknowledge in writing that they have read the handbook. A company should also have a separate written consent. It is important to publicize and communicate in detail all aspects of the company’s drug policy.

Any company that drug tests should use a lab that can furnish evidence of the employee’s consent to take the test, chain of custody of the specimen, and confirmed results of the test.

The right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure only applies to governmental entities and not to private employers. However, any company conducting searches should include a statement to that effect in the handbook. The policy should describe those things subject to a search, including employees, their work areas, lockers, vehicles if driven or parked on company property, and other personal items.

Employers should never force employees to submit to searches. However, it is permissible to condition continued employment on submission to reasonable searches. The drug policy with this condition should state clearly that refusal, after fair warning, to submit to a search or test can lead to immediate dismissal.

Sexual Harassment Handbook Checklist
* State the company’s policy against sexual harassment.
* Define sexual harassment, quid pro quo sexual harassment and hostile work environment sexual harassment.
* Advise employees of the company’s grievance procedure in the event they feel harassment has occurred.
* Assure employees that every complaint will be taken seriously and investigated immediately.
* State the penalties for sexually harassing an employee.
* Explain that individuals involved in sexual harassment complaints will have the opportunity to give a full account of their recollection of the incident or incidents.

Sexual harassment is a form of gender based discrimination prohibited by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It is defined by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission as...

"unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature when submission to the conduct enters into employment decisions and/or the conduct unreasonably interferes with an individual’s work performance or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working environment."

The two most common forms of sexual harassment are "quid pro quo" and "hostile work environment." Quid pro quo harassment forces an employee to choose between the job and the demands. Most people think of quid pro quo as something for something. On the other hand, hostile work environment harassment occurs when there is a repeated pattern of abusive, threatening, crude, impolite or various other types of unprofessional conduct that impairs an employee’s ability to perform a job. Every business should consider establishing a written policy on sexual harassment. Include it in the handbook and communicate it to all employees.

In addition to the policy, a grievance procedure should be established for employees to easily report sexual harassment. The procedure should contain a mechanism whereby employees can bypass immediate supervisors. It may be a good idea to designate one person as a grievance officer to hear complaints.

Given the exposure to liability, employers should educate employees—especially managers—about what constitutes sexual harassment. Every complaint and/or report should be taken seriously and investigated immediately. Document all investigations, and protect confidentiality of all parties involved.

 Grievances and Complaints Handbook Checklist
* State the company policy against discrimination.
* State the company policy against retaliation.
* State the policy of the company to comply with all applicable regulations, and state and federal laws.
* State that employees who feel they have been discriminated against or who have been asked to perform an illegal act are encouraged to report such incidents to the appropriate person immediately.
* Identify the individual in the company responsible for handling incidents related to this policy.
* State the company grievance procedure.

Employers have a duty by law to protect employees from discriminatory practices in the workplace. Employers must also protect employees from retaliation for exercising a legal right. Problems can arise, for example, when an employee is being sexually harassed or passed over for promotion for reasons other than job performance. Other problems may arise when an employee is penalized for refusing to perform an illegal act or for serving on jury duty. For this reason, many companies provide for a grievance system that allows employees to lodge complaints without fear of reprisal.

A company’s failure to adequately protect employees can subject the employer to liability. Numerous cases have been documented in which employers knew of complaints of discrimination or retaliation and took no action. In most cases, employers were required to pay the worker for damages. Employers may wish to adopt a mandatory arbitration policy for employment disputes. These policies have the advantage of moving the dispute out of the cumbersome and costly administrative/court based system. However, before implementing an arbitration policy you should consult with an attorney as the law in this area is both unsettled and rapidly evolving.

It is incumbent upon employers to maintain adequate systems of communication, investigation, follow up and remedial action to ensure protection. Explain the company’s grievance system in the handbook. It will instill confidence and encourage employees to step forward if there is a problem.

Be fair and consistent. The grievance process should include a mechanism whereby aggrieved employees can bypass immediate supervisors, since the complaints often involve them. Employers should take every complaint and/or report seriously. A failure to act tends to undermine employee confidence in the system.

The results of every investigation should be documented. Above all, maintain confidentiality of any and all complaints

Discipline Handbook Checklist
* Identify conduct that may result in immediate dismissal.
* Outline employee conduct that may result in disciplinary action.
* State that the conduct outlined is not an exhaustive list.
* Identify the penalty to be imposed for infractions.
* Describe the company’s disciplinary procedure.

Discipline is essential for the efficient operation of any business. All company rules regarding conduct should be contained in the employee handbook. A description of prohibited actions or behavior and the resulting disciplinary action should be outlined. This information can serve as written warning of the consequences for misconduct in the workplace.

Employees should know in advance the penalties for misconduct. It is advisable to consider a graduated system of punishment. Unless an offense requires immediate dismissal, employers should give warnings and reprimands. Graduated systems of punishment can include variations of:

* Employee counseling or verbal reprimand
* Written reprimand
* Administrative probation
* Suspension
* Final written warning
* Dismissal

Any time an employer disciplines an employee, care should be taken to document the entire

process. Memos to be placed in the employee’s personnel file should be signed by the employee. If the employee is unwilling to sign a counseling document, have a third party witness that the employee has refused to sign the document and then have the witness sign it instead.

* Don’t delay! Make a record immediately following the incident.
* Document everything and be consistent in doing so.
* Stick to the main points. Don’t get bogged down with petty details, just state the necessary facts.
* Relate the incident to the company policies manual.
* Don’t be vindictive or retaliatory. Keep the issue focused on work related matters.

Termination Handbook Checklist
* Identify those actions which may result in immediate dismissal even for a first offense. Explain that the list is not exhaustive and that items are listed by way of example only.
* List conduct likely to result in a warning and which actions may result in suspension.
* Explain the company policy regarding unused vacation and sick leave
* State the company policy regarding continuation of insurance benefits.
* Explain when a terminated employee can expect to receive a final paycheck.

Employers are not at liberty to fire employees for exercising legal rights or for refusing to commit illegal acts. Protected employee activities include:

* Discrimination: Employers may not retaliate against employees for filing a claim for discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, age, sex, national origin or disability.
* Union Membership: Employees may not be punished or fired on the basis of union membership.
* Jury Duty: Employers may not terminate an employee who is called for jury service.
* Military Service: Employers called to active duty are protected from dismissal.

Employers should become familiar with the numerous state and federal laws protecting employees from retaliation. The policy manual should make clear that the guidelines contained in it are simply general policies and are not binding promises of guaranteed employment.

Avoid claims of wrongful termination by establishing a grievance procedure and using it. Make it easy for employees to report improper activities or to complain should they ever think they have been punished for exercising legal rights.

Before Termination
* Make sure the company policy has been established and communicated to employees.
* Investigate fully the incident leading to termination.
* Document the investigation process and any and all conferences with the employee.
* Make all decisions regarding termination on objective facts.
* Follow the policy if there is a disciplinary procedure. Do not by pass certain prerequisite punishments. For example, if the infraction warrants just a warning, then only give a warning. It is critical to enforce company policy fairly and consistently.
* Explain to the employee the company policy regarding unused vacation and sick leave.
* Explain to the employee the company policy on continuation of health insurance. (Note: employers with 20 more employees are required by federal law (COBRA) to permit employees to continue insurance coverage for up to 18 months after termination at the employee’s own expense if the individual so desires.
* Advise the employee when the final paycheck will be issued.

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