Running a business is hard. As you juggle between sales, marketing, operation, and finances there is only so much time left in the day to focus on streamlining the hiring process or the human resources department. Regardless of how hard you try to do the right thing and follow the rules, it’s inevitable that you may run into personnel issues or employee complaints at some point. To prevent such a situation or to prevent it from getting worse, it’s important to have solid human resources practices and policies readily available for the employees. Whether you are seeking to hire new employees or organize your human resource department, this article is for you. My name is Vivid Niroula and I am an employment attorney based in Oklahoma City. My passion is to help business owners and managers like you navigate all facets of employment law.

No, an Oklahoma employer is not legally required to have an employee handbook, however, it’s a tremendous tool that can help you can ensure legal compliance with State and Federal laws, communicate your mission, set policies, and establish direct communication channels with your employees, and thereby exponentially minimizing the future risk of employment charge or a lawsuit.

What is the purpose of the employee handbook?

Imagine you, the business owner, or a manager speaking to every employee and telling them about the company’s mission, vision, culture, and the various policies and procedures that you follow on a day-to-day basis. If you only have a few employees, that may be doable, nonetheless, having policies that are written down in a handbook demonstrating the company’s compliance with the applicable State and Federal laws and its commitment to equal employment opportunity, can save you a lot of time and money – if the matter ends up in EEOC or state court. Although not legally required, an employee handbook is an essential tool for every Oklahoma employer seeking to officially communicate the employer’s policies, procedures, and benefits to its employees reducing future legal conflict.

What are the top 5 reasons for an Oklahoma employer to have an employee handbook?

  • An employee handbook demonstrates the employer’s commitment to the State and Federal employment laws including equal compensation to men and women under the Equal Pay Act (EPA), minimum wage and overtime pay under the Fair Labor Standard Act (FLSA), a reasonable accommodation for qualified individuals with disabilities under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) to name a few. If you are an Oklahoma City restaurant owner and you have a well-drafted employee handbook with an “EEO is the Law” poster, it will serve as the first tool that demonstrates your commitment to equal pay for equal work, in case an EEOC charge is brought against the restaurant by an employee under Equal Pay Act (EPA).
  • An employee handbook helps fulfill the employer’s legal duty to publish notices or posters explaining several employment laws and their commitment to compliance with the laws, Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) poster in regards to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act for example. If you own a plumbing business in Edmond and you have a well-drafted employee handbook with a non-discrimination policy, it will help to show your commitment to a discrimination-free workplace, in case an EEOC charge is brought against the business by an employee.
  • An employee handbook solidifies the at-will nature of the employment, thereby clarifying all doubts, and negating statements that may potentially create an expectation of future employment for a definite time or promises of termination only for a cause. Oklahoma is an at-will state, and therefore either the employee or employer is free to terminate the relationship at any time for any reason, no reason, with or without notice, unless there is an employment contract. A well-drafted handbook can help negate any possible expectations in the employee, that may give rise to an employment contract causing the employer to be in breach and costing you needless time and money. Let’s say you own a hardware store in Yukon, your statement to an employee as simple as “if you perform your job well, there is a possibility of a raise,” may be construed as creating an expectation of future earnings. However, a clear policy in the handbook stating an at-will relationship will work in your favor to limit any legal obligation arising out of an employment contract in such a case.
  • An employee handbook can help establish a channel of communication, through which an employee may voice his or her concerns or complaints to the designated supervisor. Many employers lose employment lawsuits simply because they just didn’t have a proper channel through which an employee may voice concerns or complaints, thereby allowing the employer to prevent or correct the harm. A coffee shop in Oklahoma City that has a well-drafted handbook with clearly established procedures on how a barista may contact a supervisor to voice a complaint, will find it easier to defend a harassment lawsuit if the employee failed to utilize the channel to report harassment complaints.
  • An employee handbook tells the employee what’s expected of them. A well-drafted handbook communicates the responsibilities of the employee while letting them know what to expect from the management. In essence, it works as an effective expectation management tool, where both the employees and the employer are clear as to their own and the other party’s responsibilities, thereby reducing confusion, and conflict and enhancing workplace synergy. A grocery store in Midwest City with a well-drafted employee handbook that lists the employee working hours, reduces any confusion and miscommunication as to when a person is required to report to work, allowing you to formulate and enforce a tardiness policy.

Do you need an attorney to draft an employee handbook in Oklahoma?

No, you do not need an attorney to draft an employee handbook in Oklahoma, however, an attorney can craft a handbook tailored to your business ensuring you satisfy State and Federal notice requirements and are compliant with relevant employment laws. It goes without saying that a well-drafted employee handbook that communicates company policies to employees is important to avoid any legal complaints or win a future lawsuit.  The content of an employee handbook vary across industry and company size, however, the topics mostly covered in an employee handbook include company mission, history, EEO statements, working hours, breaks, pay, overtime, vacation, leaves, social media policy, conflict of interest, tardiness, drug & alcohol policy, mediation, at-will employment, etc. An employee handbook is your opportunity to “speak” and connect to your employee by communicating to them the mission, goals, and inspiration that fuels the company, and on the same token demonstrate your commitment to relevant State and Federal employment laws.

Not having an employee handbook is not illegal, but it is flat-out irresponsible, causing you money, time, and unnecessary grief in the long run. Contact us today and let Niroula Law help you draft an employee handbook that is specifically tailored to your industry and business operation. You can reach us by phone at (405) 456-9250, or by filling out the Contact Us Form on the website.