Question: In my time-and-pay policy, how long must I give hourly employees off for lunch?
Answer: Federal breaks aren’t required for employers to give to their employees, or even meal breaks, but there are some states that do have meal and break laws, so you want to make sure you check those. Typically, you can set your own rules for meal breaks. It can be 30 minutes, even an hour. It’s up to you, but if you do have a meal break that’s 30 minutes or more, you can have your employees clock out, especially non-exempt employees. If it’s less than 20 minutes, they should stay clocked in. If they’re taking their break and they’re clocked out, the key is to make sure they aren’t doing any work. Even if they have their emails on their phones and they’re just checking their emails, you don’t want them to do that while they’re on their break.
Question: I only have five employees, so it’s a small company. Do I really need a detailed employee handbook?
Answer: Yes. Whether you have five employees or fifty, a professionally written handbook is definitely a cost-effective tool to have in your office. It can help prevent and solve disputes. It also sets up your team for success and makes all aspects of your business run more smoothly. It’s not required by any means but, just as a best practice, go ahead and have a legally complied handbook, regardless of the size of your office.
Question: My social media policy: Can I have a blanket rule that absolutely no social media may be accessed when an employee is on the clock — even from their personal phones?
Answer: Yes, absolutely. You can have the policy that, when employees are at work and on the clock, they cannot access their social media accounts even on their personal devices. But on their lunch hour, for example, if they’re clocked out, you should let them go ahead and access that. If they’re on break and they’re trying to use the company computers to access their social media, you can block those websites so they won’t have access to them. For the most part, you can set that rule, but while they’re off the clock you really shouldn’t limit that.
Question: If we distribute our policy through email, when a lot of people are trying to move from paper to electronic processing, do we need printed and signed acknowledgments from our employees?
Answer: Not necessarily. Having the proof that you emailed the policies, such as a read receipt, should be sufficient. Best practice would be having a system that has a dated acknowledgment as well, but no, it doesn’t have to be printed. You want to make sure there is some sort of record in case anything happens such as a court case.
Question: Do I need to address workplace accidents or injuries in my remote workers policy? It seems like this is a good policy because remote workers are very popular in today’s workforce.
Answer: If employees are at work and get into an accident, that’s a work accident. You want to have a policy that informs employees what the protocol is for getting treatment and reporting the accident, regardless if they’re home, at a remote location, or at the office. If the employee is doing a work function such as loading a truck to go to a client’s office, that could be considered a workers’ compensation. On the other hand, an employee doing a personal activity, if they’re a remote worker like cooking lunch, wouldn’t be considered a work accident, but your state laws do vary, so make sure you’re up to speed on what your local laws say.
Question: Isn’t it discriminatory not to offer the same leave to everyone? (Assuming when you had talked about the essential policies like FMLA or other forms of leave.)
Answer: In the webinar I discussed that you can delineate leave. For example, you can offer leave for full-time, but not part-time and for exempt or non-exempt, but when you think about discrimination you think of protected classes. An exempt employee vs a non-exempt employee isn’t a protected class. Protected classes are race, religion, sex, national origin, and genetic information. So if you’re saying you’re going to offer the men this leave but not the women, then that would be a discriminatory practice, but between full-and part-time it wouldn’t be.
Question: What is the current status of the salary vs hourly law, and how should we be handling this?
Answer: What we’re covering in this webinar is the actual policies to have in place. Our December webinar discussed the new rule being on hold and what to do. For any of those people asking questions regarding specific FLSA requirements, please check complyright.com and look for our past webinars in that series. That should answer any questions you might have.
Question: Regarding FLMA and EEOC, these posters have to be hung. If a company is hanging the posters, is that enough or must there also be something in the handbooks as well?
A lot of these labor laws like the FMLA or EEOC that require postings do have requirements that say that you have to distribute the handout as well as the posting. You want to check the laws on each of those and for the best practice; I suggest having a handout for everything you have posters on as well. Having both is best practice, but check each individual law to see if it’s required.
Question: What does the NLRB stand for?
Answer: The NLRB is the National Labor Relations Board. It’s an independent federal agency that actually enforces the National Labor Relations Act.
Question: When you update your policy handbook, should you provide a new handbook to all of the employees and have them sign off on it to show they’ve received and understand the updated policies?
Answer: This might be overkill because, a lot of times, when a law changes that affects your policies, it’s going to happen one at a time or a couple at a time. You might not have to change your entire handbook, so it’s going to be up to the company and its resources. If you have a small organization and it won’t cost that much to print out a whole bunch of books, then that’s fine, but it’s not necessary. You can either put the new policy in as an addendum or, for example, if you have a three-ring binder, you can just take out one sheet and put in another sheet. Any policies that do change you should go ahead and give them the acknowledgment every time you’ve passed out a new policy. It’s always about making sure you’re protected to know your employees are up to date and understand the most recent changes you’ve made.
Question: If an employee refuses an acknowledgment, can they be terminated if for whatever reason they disagree with the policy that is in their handbook?
Answer: The acknowledgment is just saying they received it and they agreed to read it. It’s not saying that they’re agreeing to follow it, but most employees are at-will employees. There are only a few instances in Montana or under a CBA or some other kind of employment contract where this isn’t the case. Theoretically, you could terminate them for any reason at any time, but again, the acknowledgment is just that they received it, and it doesn’t necessarily have to be signed. A read receipt when they get the email is sufficient to show they received it.
Question: How often do you recommend changes should be made to an employee handbook or to one policy that changes?
Answer: I would recommend that every time you know there’s a policy change, such as a law change that affects one of your policies, you should update your employee handbook. The hard part is knowing the law has changed and monitoring that. I would say at least annually, but again, make sure you have those catch-all phrases that you’re going to comply with all state and federal laws to protect you when you are lagging behind on a policy change.
If you know the law behind a policy has changed, go ahead and update it. That will mean you will also need to make sure you have somebody in the company who’s going to monitor those policies and laws to make sure that they know when those policies and laws have changed so they can update the policy.
We understand that constantly monitoring employment policies and laws can be overwhelming and time consuming. Gradience Handbook Manager software can help you stay on top of company policies, making sure your handbook is always in compliance.
Learn more about Gradience Handbook Manager software at www.HRdirect.com