The importance of using clear and understandable language in company handbooks cannot be stressed enough. When employees experience unfair treatment, they may turn to the company’s policies for answers, only to be let down when they see that management isn’t following them. However, most corporate handbook policies are not legally binding unless they expressly state otherwise.
Is it time to review your company handbook?
An employee handbook or manual outlines the rules, policies and standards that the organization expects from its employees. But things change, and sometimes businesses recognize that certain policies should no longer be in effect.
Perhaps the best way to approach developing a corporate handbook and avoid litigation is to include language that allows the employer to change its policy at any time. Adding a disclaimer to the handbook can make it clear that it is not a contract and does not give rise to contractual obligations, sparing the company from a lot of legal headaches.
In the case of Staschiak v. Certified Logistics, Inc., the court found itself siding with the employee because the company did not include any language to clarify that its employee handbook was not a contract.
It might be better to think of the handbook as a guide for employees and managers. Adding a disclaimer in the corporate handbook may also imply that its policies are not binding on employees. The company may better protect itself and enforce its policies by drafting a separate written agreement for its employees to sign.
Using confusing, unclear terminologies and wording in company handbooks can put employers in a vulnerable position. To avoid costly and time-consuming litigation for breach of contract, companies may want to review and update their current handbooks.