Employee handbooks or employee policy and procedure guidelines are important tools for employers to reduce their risk of liability for future litigation. However, in order for employers to have maximal protection, the policies and procedures contained in such employee handbooks need to reflect the most recent updates and changes in employment regulations. The beginning of the new year is the perfect time to revisit and change old policies to ensure that employee handbooks are compliant with the most recent interpretations of both federal and state laws. Employment law attorney, Keith Clouse, lists several key areas employers may wish to reexamine and improve below.
Paid Parental Leave
Many employers have policies offering paid leave for mothers following childbirth. However, if such policies include additional paid time off (beyond that which is required for the mother to recover from childbirth and any related medical conditions), then employers must also offer such “bonding” leave time to fathers. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) has previously issued enforcement guidance on this issue and declared that an employer’s policy which does not provide leave for parental bonding time with a new child to both men and women on equal terms is discriminatory and in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”). Therefore, it is important for employer handbooks and policies regarding post-childbirth leave to distinguish between left provided for medical recovery purposes and that provided for bonding purposes. Any parental leave time provided for bonding purposes must be offered to men and women equally, while leave provided for pregnancy and medically related recovery purposes need only be offered to the new mother.
Anti-Harassment and Anti-Discrimination Policies
Employee handbooks should have clear zero-tolerance policies for sexual harassment laid out, along with several avenues for employees to report such complaints. In addition, employers should ensure that their employee handbooks and policies cover all unlawful types of harassment and discrimination. Under Title VII, harassment and discrimination based on any of the following protected categories are prohibited: race, color, religion, sex, and national origin. Although the United States Attorney General Jeff Sessions has announced a narrow interpretation of the term “sex” in Title VII (which he believes offers no protection for transgender employees), the EEOC has taken a much more inclusive stance - declaring all discrimination and harassment against transgender, gay, bisexual, and lesbian employees to be covered by Title VII and thus illegal. Because the EEOC is the agency charged with enforcing Title VII, employers would be wise to align their employee handbooks and policies with this more expansive view of the EEOC.
The above-mentioned suggestions make up only a small portion of what should be included and addressed in an employee handbook. Yet, these small revisions help employers remain compliant with their legal obligations under Title VII and other employment laws.
This article is presented by the Dallas employment lawyers at Clouse Dunn LLP. To speak with an employment attorney about an employment law matter, send an email to [email protected] or call (214) 239-2705.
About Keith Clouse / Dallas Employment Lawyer Keith Clouse
Keith Clouse is a Texas employment law specialist with over 25 years of experience representing senior executives, business owners, physicians, and corporations in complex employment litigation, arbitration, and negotiations. Senior executives, physicians and other professionals consistently rely on Mr. Clouse for employment law expertise and advice on employment contracts, covenants not to compete, severance agreements, trade secret disputes, breach of fiduciary duty claims, and claims based on workplace discrimination, retaliation, and harassment. Source CDKLawyers.com
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