Do I Need to Update Dated Sections of My Employee Handbook if I Do Not Enforce Them?

Q.     I recently had an employee ask me about our internet usage, dress code, and other policies in our handbook.  Unfortunately, I have not touched that handbook in years, and I am not sure if most of our policies are still relevant, like the “you-break-it-you-buy-it” policy, and the “all women must wear skirts, pantyhose and make-up” policy.  That said the cover of all eight pages does have a pretty groovy bubble letter and rainbow font.  Don’t worry, I don’t actually enforce those old policies anymore (just the important ones), but I do still occasionally jam to Andy Gibb or the Bee Gees every now and again.  So, is it really that important that I update my handbook and policies?

A.     Yes and yes!!  While your policies may have worked in the 70’s, there have been hundreds, if not thousands, of new laws regarding employment that have been introduced since then.  Recently, the National Labor Relations Board (“NLRB”) have been cracking-down on companies with handbooks and policies that violate current regulations (mainly targeting social media policies, which it is fair to assume your handbook doesn’t have).  The NLRB has quietly heightened its scrutiny of company handbooks and policies and appears to be asserting itself in the predominately non-union private sector.  Though the NLRB cannot assess fines or award damages against businesses with handbooks and policies that are found to be in violation of the National Labor Relations Act, a disciplinary action or termination that was based on these policies could be invalidated, not to mention a failed union election, if employees claim to be intimidated by such policies.   Although you may have stopped forcing your employees to follow those older policies, if any claim is made against you, fighting the claim will be an even more strenuous uphill battle than it would be otherwise.  Plus, imagine the scandal if your out-dated policies went viral?  Not good for business!  It’s best to leave the past in the past and update your handbook on a yearly basis.  Disco is dead – except, of course, on Pandora.

This Legal Update / Bulletin is for educational purposes only as well as to give you general information and a general understanding of the law, not to provide specific legal advice. The hypothetical question is posed to illustrate a point and does not contemplate all potential legal considerations This update should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed professional attorney in your state.

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