Employee handbooks are an important resource for employers and employees. These books typically contain valuable information regarding what is expected of both employers and employees, as well as rules and policies pertaining to acceptable behavior in the workplace. The handbook rules are designed to protect employers and employees and to promote professionalism. However, as many employers have found out the hard way, if the handbook is not carefully worded and created, or if it is too vague and broad, then employers are the ones who pay the price.
The National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) and The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), the federal agency that enforces the NLRA, are both actively enforcing employees’ Section 7 rights. Section 7 rights guarantee employees “the right to self-organize, to form, join, or assist labor organizations… and to engage in other concerted activities for the purpose of collective bargaining or other mutual aid or protection.” The NLRA and NLRB actively protect these rights, and rules or guidelines in employee handbooks that even HINT at discouraging protected Section 7 rights may be found as an unfair labor practice.
A workplace rule may be an unfair labor practice if it expressly prohibits the exercise of protected Section 7 rights. A workplace rule may be an unfair labor practice even if it simply gives employees the idea that practicing protected Section 7 rights will have consequences in the workplace, or that these activities are discouraged in any way. Obviously, this makes drafting an employee handbook a tricky task for employers; a process that seems to be full of legal rabbit holes.
Really, for employers, the takeaway is simple- don’t purchase or use a generic employee handbook. Don’t download a general employee handbook off the internet. An effective, legal employee handbook is something that should be carefully drafted with an experienced labor law attorney. While hiring an attorney may cost more than purchasing a basic “one size fits all” handbook off the internet, the knowledge and attention to detail that a labor and employment lawyer can bring can certainly prevent serious and costly lawsuits down the road.
In Arizona, covering the Phoenix, Tucson, and surrounding areas, Hernandez Law Firm is an invaluable resource for both employers and employees seeking assistance with labor and employment issues.
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