Your Employee Handbook – It May be Time for a Tune-up
An employee handbook provides information on many different aspects of an individual’s employment, from making vacation requests and going on maternity leave, to performance reviews and termination procedures. When a certain situation arises, knowing the rules prevents surprises, confusion and resentment on both sides of the table.
Regardless of your nonprofit’s size, it should provide an employee handbook that’s clear, up-to-date and complete.
Your employee handbook should be tuned-up at least once a year in order for it to be current. Revisions to federal, state and municipal employment laws should be researched. The last few years has seen far too numerous changes to detail, and also vary widely by state (and municipality). However, policies in some areas will probably need updating.
Include Health Care Plan Information
In order to ensure that your handbook is in compliance with current requirements of the Affordable Care Act (“ACA”), revisions may be required. For example, it should state whether “part-time” employees are excluded from the company health care plan. Also, it should include whether your nonprofit chooses to use the look-back periods allowed by the ACA. If the definition of “part-time” is different for health benefits than for other types of benefits, make that distinction clear. In addition, examine how your health care and benefits policies are impacted by the recent changes in federal law that permit same-sex marriage and partner relationships.
An increasingly popular staple in nonprofits’ medical plans are wellness plans, which should be described in your handbook. If your organization offers such a plan, be sure to stay current on ACA wellness program regulations. For instance, be aware of laws that may affect the design and administration of wellness programs, such as the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”).
Legislative Protections for Pregnant Women
Last June, the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (“PWFA”, S. 1512, H.R. 2654) was introduced in congress, and earner bipartisan support for the first time. This legislation would provide pregnant women job protections similar to those under the ADA. These will most likely include limitations on lifting heavy objects, receiving assistance with manual labor and having access to places to sit.
Follow Legislative and Regulatory Trends
In addition to the current laws and regulations, a prudent employer will also keep an eye on proposed federal legislation and Department of Labor (“DOL”) regulations that, if enacted, will affect employment law — and, as a result, the policies in your employee handbook. This year, you should follow developments regarding:
- The Family and Medical Leave Inclusion Act that would allow employees to take leave to care for a same-sex spouse or partner, parent-in-law, adult sibling, grandchild or grandparent, provided that person has a serious medical condition,
- The Fair Credit Reporting Act, which could potentially prohibit employers from making hiring or job-related decisions using consumer credit reports, or obtaining consumer or investigative reports on job candidates, and
- The DOL rule changing the overtime exemption, which could require certain workers to be reclassified by employers as eligible for overtime, depending on their salary and duties.
When the incoming president takes office in January 2017, a wave of legislative and regulatory change is possible during the early stages of his or her administration.
Your Legal Advisor
A finely tuned employee handbook can help protect your nonprofit against potential employee misunderstandings and liabilities. It’s wise to have your attorney review the handbook on a regular basis so that important legal and regulatory changes aren’t overlooked.
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