Employee handbooks or manuals are frequently used in corporate settings to provide an overview of employee responsibilities and rights, as well as certain company regulations. The purpose of these manuals is twofold: to ensure all employees are aware of their rights and obligations, and to protect the company in the event of labor lawsuits.
There are some Virgin Islands and federal labor laws you are required to put into your employee handbook. Examples include information about the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and employee rights under that law, equal employment and non-discrimination policies enforced by the Department of Labor, mandatory sexual harassment prevention training and polices and workers’ compensation policies that inform employees of their right to seek compensation for workplace injuries (and the steps involved in doing so).
Beyond these types of required policies, most of the rest what you put into your handbook is up to you. Here are some examples of common policies and stipulations put into employee handbooks:
- A note that the handbook is not a contract: Many companies add language that clarifies that the handbook is simply meant as a guide for employees, and is not an express or implied contract and does not guarantee employment for a certain length of time.
- Handbook is the primary policy source: The longer your company has been around, the more documentation you’re going to accumulate, and the more policies will change over time. There should be a stipulation in the handbook that the book is the primary, ultimate source for all company policies, trumping any other documentation or understanding of the rules that may exist.
- Paid time off: If your company offers paid time off, include information such as how that vacation time will be earned, how to schedule time off, the holidays observed by the business and how employees are compensated if asked to work holidays (if applicable). This is also a good area to cover sick leave, family medical leave and any other types of leave.
- Behavior: It is a good idea to include a section in expectations of employee conduct. You should absolutely have a clear policy against employee harassment, as well as policies for conduct on the internet and company email, a dress code, a substance abuse policy and anything else you think necessary. Make sure you include a process for how you will address behavioral issues in the workplace, and how victims of harassment or abuse in the workplace can report these incidents to prompt an investigation.
- Benefits: Provide an overview of the types of benefits your company offers, but don’t get too specific, as your benefit packages may change relatively frequently. The information should instead focus on eligibility and its criteria.
- Pay structures: Include information about pay grade structures, promotions, overtime policies and work hours to ensure everyone is on the same page.
For more tips about policies and disclaimers you should include in your company’s employee handbook, contact an experienced employment attorney in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Ravinder S. Nagi is Assistant Managing Attorney and Chair of the Labor & Employment Practice Group at BoltNagi PC, a full service business law firm based on St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands.