When your company hires employees, communicating your standards and expectations, company policies, and best practices can help them thrive in the workplace. Creating an employee handbook, which serves as an introduction to the organization and a resource for employees throughout their time at the company, is a great way to accomplish this goal.

Employee handbooks typically are not required by law, but not having one can leave your organization open to significant risk. If your company uses an employee handbook, it’s important that it complies with all local, state, and federal laws—and when you hire employees in more than one state, the handbook must be updated accordingly.

Here’s how to develop and stay compliant with your employee handbook.

How to stay compliant with your employee handbook

If you choose to use an employee handbook, it’s important that it remains legally compliant with all jurisdictional employment laws. You can manage compliance with the following tips:

  • Research and include all required employment law policies: Employment law varies from state to state, and some counties and cities have additional laws. You’ll need to research each applicable state’s laws each time you update your handbooks or hire someone in a new state.
  • Tailor handbooks to local and state laws: Once you’ve identified all the state- and locally-specific requirements, you may choose to create separate handbooks by location. This ensures that you’re in compliance, no matter where your employees live and work. Another option is to create a universal handbook with state addenda.
  • Avoid copying and pasting handbook policies: Avoid the temptation to copy and paste employee handbook policies and language. Not only is it a potential copyright violation, but there’s no guarantee that language and the policies are appropriate for each location. That can leave your company open to legal liability.
  • Train managers on handbook policies: When you create your handbook, be sure to train managers on the handbook policies. When issues arise, instruct them to manage according to those policies.
  • Distribute handbooks to all employees: Make sure that all employees have access to the employee handbook and know where to find it. You may choose to make the handbook available on your website or company intranet as well as distributing digital or hard copies.
  • Review handbook regularly: Employment laws can change frequently. When you create an employee handbook, it’s important to review it on a regular basis to ensure that it’s still in compliance with all applicable laws. This should be done at least once per year, or whenever employment laws change in each state where your employees live and work.

Are employee handbooks legally binding?

Depending on how your employee handbook is written, it can be construed as a contract. Generally, courts will look to the handbook to see if the employer has made any guarantees to the employee, or if the employee has promised anything to the employer by accepting or signing the handbook. To protect your organization from liability, using legal handbook tools or hiring an attorney is prudent.

Is a company’s employee handbook confidential?

Employee handbooks are not confidential. The National Labor Relations Board has provided guidance regarding “confidential” handbooks: they can be considered part of an employee’s working conditions, which employees are generally entitled to discuss with third parties under federal labor laws.

If you want to inform only certain employees of information, such as specific policies and pay scales for upper-level executives, it’s best to include that information in a separate, standalone document.

Ultimately, you should not try to make your employee handbook confidential. It’s unlikely to be upheld in court, and could lead to additional legal liability.

How to develop a compliant employee handbook

Employee handbook compliance can be complicated, especially if you hire workers in more than one state. It can be time-consuming and expensive to research employment laws in every state or to pay a law firm to do it. Instead of racking up billable hours, there’s a better way.

SixFifty’s Employment Docs platform is specifically designed to guide employers through every stage of the employment lifecycle, from hiring your first employee to letting a worker go. You can create top-tier employment documents like legally compliant employee handbooks quickly and cost-effectively. Best of all, our legal team keeps a close eye on changes to employment legislation nationwide. We’ll notify you if there are any new changes so you can regenerate and redistribute your handbook. Each time you generate a new handbook, you won’t have to worry about employee handbook compliance—we’ve done the hard work for you.

Ready to learn more? Schedule a demo today!

Looking for the employee handbook requirements for your state? View our interactive map for required employee handbook policies by state.