Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Brush the Dust off That Employee Handbook

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Brush the Dust off That Employee Handbook

Article excerpt

At a hearing before federal labor regulators in December, company officials with Quicken Loans voiced publicly what many workers - let's be honest - privately think about those employee handbooks they receive.

"It was an afterthought at best after it was distributed," attorney Russell Linden reportedly told an administrative law judge at National Labor Relations Board offices in Detroit, according to The Detroit Free Press. Chief marketing officer Joanna Cline chimed in as well, telling the judge she put hers in a drawer and later threw it away.

The testimony was part of a case in which the Detroit-based lender was accused of violating both the First Amendment rights of employees and their protections under the National Labor Relations Act to discuss salary and benefits information, discussions that could lead to the formation of a labor union.

Regardless of the outcome, the Quicken case highlights the detriments of ignoring the handbook.

Jana Grimm, an employment lawyer at Canonsburg-based Steptoe & Johnson PLLC, said while employers and employees don't necessarily need to read the document to the point of memorization, they should consider such handbooks valuable for a wide range of circumstances.

Handbooks are designed to offer non-unionized employees readily accessible workplace guidelines, such as harassment and dress code policies; how to file a workplace complaint; and how to resolve disputes internally.

Because employees often must sign that they've read and understand the policies and procedures, the handbooks can also carry weight in cases of misconduct, she said.

"My clients are generally pretty savvy regarding what they want [in the handbook], and they go back into them periodically and do revisions," Ms. Grimm said.

Reviews and revisions might be necessary for many companies since the labor board issued a report in March specifically addressing employee handbooks. The guidance attempted to clear up ambiguities regarding the board's policing of language, wrote Richard Griffin Jr., the labor board's general counsel, in an accompanying letter. …

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