Employee handbooks…every employer should have one, but does yours include policies that are unlawful? Test your employment law IQ and let us know what would you do.

Scenario: Dickie V., the HR Director for Bracketology Secrets, Inc., has asked Bracketology’s employment law counsel, Billy B. Ball, to review Bracketology’s Employee Handbook, which was last revised in 2007. Since then, Bracketology has grown to25 employees, all located at one central location. When Dickie V. receives Ball’s written analysis of Bracketology’s Employee Handbook, he is shocked to see so many suggested revisions.

Which of the following policies do you think Billy B. Ball left unrevised?

A.  Bracketology Secrets, Inc. compensates its employees on a merit-based system. To avoid creating hostility or other issues in the workplace, Bracketology employees are not permitted to discuss their individual compensation packages with other Bracketology employees.

B.  Employee personnel files are property of Bracketology Secrets, Inc., and will not be released to any employee or third party without a subpoena or similar court order.

C.  Bracketology Secrets, Inc. desires to keep all of its employees, customers, vendors, and the general public safe on its premises. As such, any employee who brings a weapon to Bracketology premises, whether on their person, in a bag, or in a vehicle, may be subject to immediate termination.

D.  All three policies are acceptable as written.

The correct answer is “B.” Policy A is unlawful because it violates employees’ Section 7 right to engage in concerted action regarding terms, conditions, or privileges of employment under the NLRA. Employers cannot prohibit employees from discussing any item, including salary or other compensation, that could be considered a term, condition, or privilege of employment.

Policy C needs one small revision:  it should have a clause permitting an employee to bring a weapon when in compliance with Section 790.251, Florida Statutes—Florida’s Bring Gun to Work law. This law permits employees to possess a firearm in their vehicle on work premises under certain circumstances.

Policy B is accurate as stated. In Florida, personnel files do belong to the employer, and the employer is not required to allow the employee to access his/her file absent subpoena or court order.

HR Takeaway:  The laws and regulations governing HR policies often evolve and change, sometimes rapidly, over the years. For this reason, it is a good idea to have your employment law counsel conduct a thorough review of all workplace policies and employment manuals on a routine basis, particularly since a properly drafted and comprehensive handbook can afford employers certain defenses to employee claims such as discrimination and/or harassment.

We will continue the Employment Law IQ series at the upcoming 22nd Annual HR Law & Solutions seminar on April 1 at Sanibel Harbour in Fort Myers. Click here to download registration brochure or you can register online here.