Employee Handbooks for the State of Washington

Are you a business owner, or manager of a human resources team, that’s scrambling to understand employer compliance rules in the state of Washington? Do you want to set office rules and regulations, and most of all, be able to present them to your employees in an easy-to-understand format? Yes, we understand that these are most likely questions that feel important and are hard to make urgent and answer in any particular day. All good business owners have one thing in common, they do what they can to keep their day-to-day operations running smoothly. Providing your new hires with an employee handbook on day one is a great way of setting expectations upfront.

We’ve been helping business owners for over two decades. Our team of skilled and experienced employment litigation attorneys understand the rules and regulations governed by the state of Washington. If you would like to speak with a Seattle employment law attorney about the creation of an employee handbook, or if you have questions about how you can protect your business, click here. If you want help developing your own handbook with a little support, click here. You can also continue reading below to learn more developing an effective handbook for your new hires.

Developing an Effective Washington State Employee Handbook & When You May Need To Consider Hiring Outside Legal Counsel to Assist

Handbooks set expectations in writing and provide a reference for individual contributors to answer their own questions without informing the employer of the concern. Handbooks introduce the employee to the company and culture, and they can provide legal protection for the employer while disclaiming obligations. Handbooks may also set company policy that affects a class of persons uniformly and easily fall out of date or out of compliance, especially when the enterprise expands to a new state.

Handbooks should be written in plain language for the employees and do not need to cite or name specific laws. Office procedures should go in a different form and not in the employee handbook.

Handbooks for government employers or the unionized workplace will likely be more detailed than a business with fewer employees. Employers with fewer employees should write policies, if not a handbook, explaining at least the following: anti-harassment and non-retaliation policy, including a complaint procedure; drug testing policy, if any; electronic data and communications policy; sick leave policy; leave of absence policy, and equal employment opportunity or diversity policy, if applicable. Handbooks for workforces that are entry-level should be written with specific examples of prohibited misconduct.

Handbooks may be printed and distributed or posted electronically. Updates should be pushed, at least by reference, and not with the expectation that employees will automatically go look and understand them.

Acknowledgments should be required only if the organization has a system to reliably get signatures and track them, or if the employer relies on the handbook to terminate due to misconduct or post-employment matters, such as arbitration agreements. The new employee’s initial acceptance of the handbook on a checklist is often enough. If you have an arbitration clause in your handbook, you should obtain a signature. Distribute any post-employment noncompete agreement outside the handbook. Assign a person to distribute, update, and redistribute the handbook, and obtain and file any acknowledgments.

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) is a risk for employers, including those in the non-union setting. Relying on the NLRB decision in Lutheran Heritage Village-Livona, 343 NLRB 646 (2004), overruled in part by Boeing Co., 365 N.L.R.B. No. 154, slip op. at 1, 3, 7-14 (Dec. 14, 2017), the NLRB took the position that a work rule could not only violate the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) by explicitly restricting protected concerted activity but could also be determined to violate the NLRA if employees could reasonably construe the rule’s language to prohibit concerted activity. The newly appointed General Counsel of the NLRB, Peter Robb, issued Memorandum GC 18-02 (December 1, 2017), which signaled a reversal of policy that favored restrictions on employee social media.

How big is your business?

Mid-sized to large businesses can really benefit from a handbook. Publishing your policies, expectations, and rules ensures consistent communication of this important information to all employees. These handbooks are often quite detailed, covering a comprehensive range of topics that includes: Workdays, attendance policy, and pay policy; Employee conduct and discipline policy; and Safety policies.

Small businesses (8≤ FTE employees) should generally have a handbook, and it can be concise. Combining a short handbook with personal communication may be the most effective way to train new employees. The handbook should address the following: Employer’s expectations of employees, and vice-versa; customer service policy; company mission, vision, and values; and safety policies.

Very small businesses (<8 employees) often prefer to personally communicate important information to their employees. These businesses often prefer a brief welcome packet of 1-5 pages welcoming employees and listing expectations and safety rules. Those businesses should still have an anti-harassment policy and a sick leave policy.

How present are you (the business owner)?

  • If you are rarely on-site, or you are often too busy to interact directly with employees, then a handbook is highly advisable. It communicates information, expectations, policies, and rules consistently to all employees, regardless of whether you are able to interact personally with each of them.
  • If you are very present in your business’s day-to-day operations, a handbook is still highly advisable. You might prefer to address employees’ questions and concerns personally as they arise but you do not want to be accused of favoritism or inconsistently applying the rules. Publishing your policies in a handbook and documenting employee grievances and discipline will help you comply with relevant employment laws and protect you against allegations of unfair practices.
  • If you are present but your employees do not come to you with questions, and/or you observe that your employees appear unclear about policies and expectations, then a handbook is highly advisable. Publishing your business’ rules, expectations, and policies can clarify these concerns and will be much appreciated by your employees.

How many entry-level positions at low wages do you have?

If your business relies upon positions near minimum wage, especially if you have high turnover, you need written policies setting expectations. Higher wage earners also appreciate clear expectations and may better tolerate dis-preferred outcomes if they are in a written policy.

Does your type of business need special policies?

  • Safety policies are imperative in many lines of business, especially construction, roofing, security, manufacturing, landscaping, trucking, and sanitation. An employee handbook that clearly describes your safety policies is essential in these professions, which have some of the highest annual rates of employee injury. An acknowledgment or brief quiz on the safety rules is also advisable to make sure your employees appreciate the importance of job safety.
  • Confidentiality policies are required for some types of business, such as medical clinics and counseling. Your patients expect it and the law requires it. Your employees must keep confidential information in-house, and a well-written employee handbook is a good place to put your policy on confidential and sensitive information to ensure that your employees are aware of their obligations.
  • Trade secret policies are advisable in highly competitive fields such as business, research, and high-tech industries. If your business relies on staying a step ahead of your competitors at all times, put it in the handbook and have your employees sign an acknowledgment that they have read and understood the rules.

Are you willing to invest the time to write a handbook that accurately reflects your business and policies?

  • Yes: Write a handbook. Even if you have a small business and are able to easily communicate with your employees, a handbook can be a helpful tool for both employers and employees to clarify expectations and obligations in the employment relationship.
  • No, but I’d be alright with hiring someone and then reviewing his/her work: Hire someone to write a handbook. But be certain to thoroughly review it before distributing the handbook to your employees. You can find boilerplate manuals on the internet but every business is unique and your handbook should be not only a list of rules and policies but also a reflection of your corporate culture.
  • No, and I don’t want / can’t afford to hire someone to do it: Don’t distribute a handbook. If you are unwilling or unable to put in the time, then a handbook is just a rope to hang yourself. Failure to follow the policies published in your handbook opens you to legal liability for unfair treatment of employees. A progressive discipline policy can complicate firing problem employees. Templates taken straight off the internet may not be in line with federal, state, and local employment laws, opening you up to all manner of lawsuits. It is extremely useful to have a handbook if possible. But it is better to have no handbook at all than to have a bad one.

The bottom line: Almost any business, of any size and in any industry, can benefit from having an employee handbook. It can be long or short. You can choose what to include and what to leave out. The important thing is to make sure the handbook reflects your business’ unique policies and culture. It’s a good idea to also check with a lawyer, to be sure that nothing in your handbook accidentally violates relevant labor and employment laws. But be aware that a bad manual can be worse than no manual at all. If you don’t want to put some thought and time into writing it, or if you don’t find yourself following your published policies, handbooks can come back to hurt you if you are sued by a dissatisfied employee.

Ensuring Handbook Style Fits with Corporate Culture

Handbooks should be written with the audience in mind. The handbook should welcome employees, provide a centralized place to answer questions about the employment relationship, and give guidance. As a drafting consideration, you may decide to leave out names of laws or legal language drawn from cases or statutes. You may want to include a message right after the title page from the owner or senior leader. Workplaces in which a second language is frequently used may want to copy the handbook into a language other than English.

Revising the Old vs. Starting Anew

Professionals that write your handbooks will have forms that fit together and are consistent with each other. The more customization, the higher the cost, yet the more generic the less useful. The decision to edit the old one or start from scratch is a business decision informed by risk management, the cost, and sometimes a legal perspective.

Topics That Should Be Included: Workplace Conduct: Harassment, Dress Code, etc.
Anti-Harassment

Every business should include an anti-harassment policy. You may think it isn’t necessary, because you don’t harass your employees and your employees seem to get along well. Sadly, even you – yes, you – the virtuous employer of polite, professional employees, need an anti-harassment policy in your employee handbook or collection of policies. This carries a number of benefits:

  • It tells your employees that you care about their well-being;
  • It forces you to set up a procedure for reporting and addressing harassment allegations so that a confidential and confidence-inspiring system is in place if your employees ever feel they need it;
  • It helps protect you against unemployment claims if you have to terminate an employee for harassing his/her colleagues; and
  • It protects the company from certain harassment claims.

Imagine this scenario:

You have no anti-harassment policy. An employee experiences harassment and reports it to you. You ask HR to investigate and they find that the employee’s complaint is justified. HR advises you to terminate the harasser, and you do. The terminated employee had an employment contract saying s/he was guaranteed full-time employment for a term of years. S/he files for unemployment benefits. What do you do? This was not an at-will employee and you didn’t have a policy saying that you retained the right to terminate employees for harassing their colleagues. You may end up having to pay unemployment benefits.

An anti-harassment policy and complaint procedure should contain, at a minimum, the following elements:

  • A clear explanation of prohibited conduct;
  • Assurance that employees who make complaints of harassment or provide information related to such complaints will be protected against retaliation;
  • A clearly described complaint process that provides accessible avenues of complaint;
  • Assurance that the employer will protect the confidentiality of harassment complaints to the extent possible;
  • A complaint process that provides a prompt, thorough, and impartial investigation; and
  • Assurance that the employer will take immediate and appropriate corrective action when it determines that harassment has occurred.

Additional features of anti-harassment policies may be appropriate, such as mandatory reporting by the person harassed and other witnesses; mandatory reporting by those who receive complaints of harassment; an outline of the investigation process; social media and off duty conduct may subject the employee to discipline; harassment by or from customers and vendors is covered under the policy; and guidance on action taken when a policy violation is found.

Dress Code and Grooming Policy

You may write or enforce a dress code as to all or a subset of your employees. The policy should be drafted with a business-related policy in mind, which will help the employer be mindful of its impact and decide whether to permit exceptions. A non-exempt employee sent home to comply with the policy may be denied compensation as hours worked.

Employers may require a uniform. Uniforms should be provided at no cost if it is so distinctive it clearly identifies one as an employee of a specific employer; has a logo; is a special historical period or an ethnic tradition; formal apparel; or the color scheme switches within two years (except one seasonal difference). RCW 49.12.450. If the uniform consists of clothing that the employee normally can wear in non-work situations, it need not be provided: for tops, consider white, tan, or blue; for bottoms, consider tan, black, or gray. Dept. Labor & Indsutries Admin. Policy ES.C.8. Personal protective equipment must be purchased. Your policy may prohibit the wearing of fragrances.

Dress codes and grooming standards should be written in a way that does not discriminate on the basis of race, religion, or disabilities. A no-beard policy may disproportionately impact black men. Policies that prohibit headwear or ethnic clothing while allowing casual dress are likely discriminatory. Absent undue hardship, employers should allow exceptions to rules that people with disabilities find hard to comply with.

FMLA Leave and Other Absence Policies

Are you going to provide paid time off? How can it be accumulated? Does it expire? Are sick days different from vacation days? How much notice must employees give before using their time off? Do you make special accommodations for parents?

The key to avoiding trouble concerning employee leave is to tell your employees what you expect of them and what they can expect from you. Inconsistently dealing with time-off requests on an ad hoc basis is a sure way to invite allegations of unfair treatment or discrimination.

Washington State provides paid sick leave, and some cities, including Seattle and Tacoma, have paid sick leave that overlaps with state law. Additionally, state or federal law offer unpaid leave for these reasons: employee or family medical conditions; domestic violence; jury duty; and military deployment. If the employee seeks or takes leave due to a healthcare condition, you should also look for whether the employer may be required to offer unpaid leave as a reasonable accommodation.

The employer gains some advantages and limitations on unpaid leave with a written policy in advance of the request. Unpaid leave is complicated and can be a high-risk situation to navigate. If the employer is subject to FMLA, it should write a comprehensive FMLA policy for employees to use.

Social Media Policies

Employers should set expectations for employee use of social media in either a stand-alone policy or by integrating these expectations throughout other policies. These expectations should be brought up in training due to the emerging views and importance of social media. Draw clear expectations as to what is encouraged, discouraged, and forbidden. The duty of loyalty may be violated through the misuse of social media. While employers may want to monitor for compliance, employers should not require permitting the employee to log in and let management see inside the account or require friending of management.

The NLRB regulates social media policies, especially those that may be read as discouraging employees from discussing the terms and conditions of their employment with fellow employees and third parties as it may infringe on their Section 7 rights. The NLRB changes policies from administration to administration, and social media law, expectations, and technology are advancing rapidly. Calendar a time to review and update your policy in a year.

Work-related social media posts may be protected concerted activity under the NLRA. Concerted activity looks like the following:

  • About terms and conditions of employment;
  • Were intended for or in response to a coworker’s post or message;
  • Venting by an employee about how a manager treated an employee and urging them to support a union in a pending election; or
  • Facebook discussions viewable by customers complaining about owing state taxes because of alleged employer errors in tax withholding, even though their posts and the discussion thread had expletives and bad-mouthed the employer.

Social media posts are less likely to constitute concerted activity if they contain only:

  • non-specific criticism about the employer;
  • non-specific comments about a union;
  • non-specific response to a work-related post of another unidentified person who cannot be confirmed to be a coworker.
Off-Duty Conduct

If the employer has high-profile employees, those in a position requiring safety, or a large workforce, the employer may want to write policies concerning off-duty conduct. While the policy should fit relevant risks to the business and take care to tie the misconduct to business interest, specific off-duty conduct which may result in employees being disciplined, including the following:

  • sexual misconduct;
  • racist or sexist remarks or conduct;
  • threats against coworkers or supervisors;
  • fraud;
  • falsification to obtain employment, employment benefits, workers compensation, disability, or sick leave;
  • failure to pay just debts, including taxes, other than notices of garnishment or child support;
  • misuse of a company credit card;
  • work in violation of anti-moonlighting or in conflict with a noncompetition agreement;
  • violation of the duty of loyalty or non-disclosure agreement; and
  • conflicts of interest (improper use of one’s job position for private gain).

Separating an employee due to off-duty conduct will likely permit the employee to get unemployment benefits unless there is a strong nexus between intentional activity and harm to the business. See Nelson v. Department of Employment Security, 98 Wn.2d 370, 372, 655 P.2d 242 (1982).

Work from Home

Many employees, especially during COVID, prefer to work from home. In our other posts on COVID, we explore that topic. One place to get information is here.

A well-drafted telecommuting policy includes these elements:

  • Defining eligibility to telecommute;
  • A procedure for requesting approval to telecommute; and
  • Explaining employee responsibilities (e.g., accessibility during work hours, hours worked, physical safety, computer, and information security. Telecommuting agreements should not be one-size-fits-all. Rather, they should be tailored to the nuances of the business. In setting forth the obligations of both you and the employee, key points can be grouped under four broad headings:

(1) policy issues,

(2) operational issues,

(3) management issues, and

(4) security issues.

As for security issues, a telecommuting agreement should address the safeguarding of company data, trade secrets, and other proprietary information, regardless of whether the information is stored in electronic or hard-copy format. Security measures such as double or triple passwords to gain remote access to servers and databases and other devices to protect the integrity of company information should be implemented, and telecommuters should be required to report any breaches of data security immediately. These measures are even more pressing if the telecommuter is working with personal health information covered under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act privacy rule. You must retain the right to monitor e-mail, Internet use, and other communication by telecommuters during business hours. Finally, a home office may have (1) a door with a lock that is secured when the telecommuter leaves the room, (2) a paper shredder, and (3) a locking file cabinet.

You may want to publicize and exercise the right to inspect home offices for safety standards. Although OSHA and WISHA will not hold the employer responsible for workplace conditions in the employee’s home, accidents will expose the employer to workers’ compensation claims.

Employers that are covered by the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) must monitor hours of work by non-exempt employees and record the total number of hours worked each day and each workweek. Nonexempt employees are covered by the FLSA’s restrictions on minimum wage and overtime pay regardless of where they perform their jobs, including at a home office. Therefore, a telecommuting agreement should require telecommuters to report the number of hours they work on both a daily and a weekly basis. Employees may track their time using timecards, but computer or telephone tracking systems that generate logs of hours worked are more reliable.

Covered employers are required to pay employees for all hours worked, regardless of whether they have established rules prohibiting work beyond a prescribed number of hours. Therefore, a telecommuting agreement should include a provision advising employees not to work more than a specified number of hours in a week without first obtaining approval.

There also has been litigation by telecommuters who are required to be available for work and/or wait for work during certain hours and want to be compensated for time spent waiting for work or instructions. You can reorganize procedures to eliminate “waiting” time or delineate a different rate of pay for time spent waiting. You should have procedures in place for times of inactivity when the Internet, servers, or other technology is inoperable, and telecommuters are ready but unable to work online. That time is compensable hours worked, so you may want to have a plan in place to help workers stay productive.

Because of potential problems, some companies limit telecommuting to exempt employees. Trying to circumvent the FLSA’s overtime liability by transforming an exempt employee’s job into a nonexempt clerical position or attempting to reclassify employees as independent contractors when they are working on company-supplied equipment could be questioned in an FLSA audit.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires you to make reasonable accommodations for employees with disabilities. You are not required to accommodate a disabled employee if you can show that doing so would impose an undue hardship on business operations. While the ADA doesn’t mention telecommuting as a potential reasonable accommodation, several courts have suggested that you must consider it in certain circumstances. At the very least, the ADA requires a case-by-case analysis to determine whether an appropriate reasonable accommodation exists.

If you offer telecommuting as a reasonable accommodation to a disabled employee, you should evaluate the essential functions of the employee’s job to determine whether the arrangement is even feasible. If you decide to offer telecommuting as a reasonable accommodation, the essential functions of the job should be listed in the telecommuting agreement. Because of the complexity of laws addressing reasonable accommodations, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has provided guidance on the issue. It’s titled “Work at Home/Telework as an ADA Accommodation” and is available on the EEOC’s website (www.eeoc.gov/facts/telework.html).

Generally speaking, an employee’s efforts on behalf of his or her employer will be considered compensable work provided that the work is for the benefit of the employer and the employer “suffers or permits” the work. To suffer or permit the work means that if an employer requires or allows employees to work, the time spent is generally hours worked. That is, an employer will suffer or permit work not only if the work is requested, but also if the employee performs the work (even if the work is not authorized) and the employer knew or should have known that it was being performed.

If the employer suffers or permits the work, hours may be worked regardless of whether they are performed on an employer’s premises, off an employer’s premises, or even at the employee’s home. However, not all time spent at a business is included as an “hour worked” for minimum wage and overtime considerations.

Under the Portal-to-Portal Act, the judicial construction of “hours worked” excludes from compensation activities that are “preliminary to or postliminary to said principal activity or activities.” Such activities will only be compensable as “hours worked” if they are deemed “integral and indispensable” to the employee’s work for the company. Generally speaking, an activity is integral and indispensable to an employee’s principal activities – such that time spent on such activities is compensable – if that activity is: (1) an “intrinsic element” of the employee’s principal duties, and (2) an activity “with which the employee cannot dispense if he is to perform his principal activities.”

Drug Use and Testing

Washington employers may establish a drug-free workplace, and the use of medical marijuana is not required to be accommodated. It has not enacted a uniform statute regulating drug testing by private employers. However, there is a statutory provision and common law applicable to employer drug testing under certain circumstances. Drug testing is permitted pre-employment, randomly, when there is reasonable suspicion, and in some other circumstances.

Employers should not discriminate solely because a person is an alcoholic or former drug addict. Employers may be allowed to discriminate if the condition prevents the employee from performing their essential job functions or constitutes a direct threat to property or safety. Disability protections cover people who are participating in, or have successfully completed, a supervised drug rehabilitation program and are no longer using illegal drugs. Work performance and drug-free work is a lawful expectation. Prohibiting off-duty use of illegal drugs is also permitted. Care should be taken to avoid discrimination for side effects of a disability, including prescribed medication.

Federal contractors must certify a drug-free workplace, so they must write a policy to comply with those requirements. Department of Transportation has mandated drug and alcohol testing of certain workers.

If the employer wants to use drug testing, consider writing a policy with these elements:

  • a description of the employees or job applicants covered by the policy;
  • a description of the circumstances under which drug or alcohol testing may be required;
  • a recitation of the right of an applicant or employee to refuse to undergo a test and the consequences of that refusal;
  • a list of any disciplinary or other adverse personnel action that the employer may take based on a confirmatory test verifying a positive test result on an initial screening test;
  • a statement of the right of an employee or job applicant to explain a positive test result on a confirmatory retest or right to request and pay for a confirmatory retest; and
  • a statement of any available appeals procedure.

Protections for Specific Classes: LGBTQIA.

State and federal laws protect against discrimination on the basis of sex, including gender identity and sexual orientation. State law includes “heterosexuality, homosexuality, bisexuality, and gender expression or identity,” which means “having or being perceived as having a gender identity, self-image, appearance, behavior, or expression, whether or not that gender identity, self-image, appearance, behavior, or expression is different from that traditionally associated with the sex assigned to that person at birth.” RCW 49.60.040(26). Federal law seems to be in accord. See, e.g., Blatt v. Cabela’s Retail, Inc., No. 5:14-CV-04822, 2017 WL 2178123 (E.D. Pa. May 18, 2017) (transgender protection under the ADA); Obergefell v. Hodges, 576 U.S. 644, 135 S. Ct. 2584 (2015) (marriage equality is a fundamental right under due process); Executive Order 13672 (as amended 2014)(prohibiting federal contractors’ discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity).

Examples of unlawful discrimination include the following:

  • Failing to hire an applicant because she is a transgender woman;
  • Firing an employee because he is planning or has made a gender transition;
  • Denying an employee equal access to a common restroom corresponding to the employee’s gender identity;
  • Harassing an employee because of a gender transition, such as by intentionally and persistently failing to use the name and gender pronoun that correspond to the gender identity with which the employee identifies, and which the employee has communicated to management and employees;
  • Denying an employee a promotion because he is gay or straight;
  • Discriminating in terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, such as providing a lower salary to an employee because of sexual orientation, or denying spousal health insurance benefits to a female employee because her legal spouse is a woman, while providing spousal health insurance to a male employee whose legal spouse is a woman;
  • Harassing an employee because of his or her sexual orientation, for example, by derogatory terms, sexually oriented comments, or disparaging remarks for associating with a person of the same or opposite sex; or
  • Discriminating against or harassing an employee because of his or her sexual orientation or gender identity, in combination with another unlawful reason, for example, on the basis of transgender status and race, or sexual orientation and disability.

As tolerance spreads and legal restrictions expand, our vocabulary and understanding must also advance. The letters LGBTQIA refer to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or questioning, intersex, and asexual or allied. There is also the acronym QUILTBAG (queer and questioning, intersex, lesbian, transgender and two-spirit, bisexual, asexual and ally, and gay and genderqueer). Cisgender is an adjective denoting a person whose identity and gender corresponds with their birth sex.

Common Employee Handbook Topics in the State of Washington – Call a Washington State Employment Law Attorney Now to Learn More

*Note that not all topics apply to all employers

  1. Foreword / Introduction
    1. Company history, goals, culture
    2. Welcome
    3. Disclaimers and At-Will-Employment
    4. Open-door policy
  2. Diversity Statement
    1. Valuing Diversity
    2. Equal Opportunity Employer statement (if applicable, federal contractor)
  3. Employment
    1. Employee classification
    2. Workplace accommodations
    3. Background Checks
    4. Alcohol and drug tests (if applicable)
    5. Compensation
      1. Pay periods
      2. On-call and overtime pay
  • Promotion policy (if applicable)
  1. Performance and salary reviews (if applicable)
  2. Bonus compensation (if applicable)
  1. Hours
    1. Attendance and punctuality expectations
    2. Meal and rest periods
  • Overtime policy
  1. Flexible work hours and telecommuting policy (if applicable)
  2. Policy on outside employment (if applicable)
  1. Introductory / probationary period (if applicable)
  2. Termination, resignation, and discharge
  3. Transfers and relocation
  4. Unions
  1. Employee Conduct
    1. Conduct standards
      1. Confidentiality and nondisclosure
      2. Conflict of interest
  • Use of company time + technology
    1. Company computer and internet use
    2. Company communication systems use
    3. Software / downloading policy
    4. Company equipment and vehicles
  1. Dress policy (if applicable)
  2. Insider trading (if applicable)
  3. Employment of relatives
  • Romance in the workplace
  • Smoking policy (if applicable)
  1. Ethical and legal business practices
  2. Anti-harassment and anti-discrimination policies
  3. Complaints and grievances
  1. Reviews, Evaluations, and Discipline
    1. Performance evaluations and reviews
    2. Personnel files
    3. Discipline policy
  2. Leave Policy (Paid Time Off and Unpaid Time Off)
    1. Holidays
    2. Sick days and personal days
    3. Family and medical leave
    4. Bereavement
    5. Military leave
    6. Voting, jury duty, and court cases
    7. Other Leave
  3. Safety & Emergency
    1. General safety policy
    2. Workplace violence
    3. Drug policy (if applicable)
    4. Security
    5. Emergency measures for inclement weather (esp. Seattle)
  4. Employee Benefits (if applicable)
    1. Medical insurance (25+)
    2. Reimbursement for parking / taxis / public transit
    3. Retirement savings plan contributions / 401k Plan
    4. Travel and expenses
    5. Worker’s compensation
    6. COBRA (20+ employees)
    7. Disability benefits (long- and short-term) (if applicable)
    8. Tuition assistance program (if applicable)
    9. Employee Assistance Program (EAP) (if applicable)
    10. Employee benefits (if applicable)
    11. Life insurance (if applicable)

 Boilerplate Language

One important consideration is whether the employee handbook creates legally enforceable promises, such as changing from the default of at-will employment into an expectation of continued employment absent misconduct, an employment contract for a term (i.e. years), or one that creates promises of specific treatment in particular situations. See, Quedado v. Boeing, 168 Wn. App. 363, rev. denied 175 Wn.2d 1011 (2012); Baker v. City of Seatac, 994 F.Supp.2d 1148 (2014). The Quedado court seems to endorse the following as language to guard against an enforceable promise: “general statements of company policy,” and “in a conspicuous manner,” that “nothing contained therein is intended to be part of the employment relationship,” or a specific reservation that the employer specifically reserves a right to modify the policies or writes them “in a matter that retains discretion to the employer.” Id. at 369 (citations omitted).

Schedule a Consultation with an Employment Law Attorney in Seattle, WA – Protect Your Business Now

At Rocke Law, we are all about being proactive rather than reactive. Your business is more than how you earn a living, it’s part of you. Your legacy. Protect your business, protect yourself, and watch your business thrive. In an ever-changing political and social-economical environment, it’s harder than ever to stay compliant. Call Rocke Law today to learn more about employee handbooks, as well as hot topics such as COVID offices rules, non-compete clauses, misclassification of employees, and how to keep your business on the right side of the rules and regulations in the state of Washington.