Why Not to Download Your Employee Handbook from the Internet

Nina L. Kaufman, Esq.

Nina L. Kaufman, Esq.

Nina L. Kaufman, Esq., owner of Ask The Business Lawyer, is an award-winning business attorney, speaker, and Entrepreneur Magazine online contributor. She saves consulting and professional services companies time, money, and aggravation by serving as their outsourced legal counsel.

Posted on March 10, 2017 in Employee Issues

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Because “one size does not fit all.” And because “you get what you pay for.”
In “a whopper of a sexual harrassment claim” (thanks to blog author Jon Hyman for the turn of phrase I couldn’t resist), the case of EEOC v. V & J Foods, Inc., a Burger King franchise had an employee manual that outlined the procedures to be followed in a sexual harassment grievance. However, the policy was written in a convoluted and confusing manner and–significantly–provided no way to bypass a harassing supervisor. When a part-time teenage employee ran into a problem with her supervisor, she didn’t follow the grievance procedure in the manual.

The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals didn’t care that she didn’t follow the proper procedure. The employment manual wasn’t clear to the average employee (in this case the average employee would be a teenager or high school graduate). In fact, the court found that the complaint procedure was confusing even for adults and, as a result, the grievance process was unreasonable.

The issue for your employment manuals is that they need to be clear and easily understood.If you do download them from the internet, make sure you show them to your attorney in order to demystify the boilerplate and insert the right provisions for your business.Otherwise, you could end up with a document full of policies and procedures that no one is required to follow.

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