Employee Handbooks: Content & Pitfalls Synopsis

By Kathleen Pohlid Founder & Managing Member, Pohlid, PLLC | February 17, 2013

The New Year is a good time to review employment policies and procedures. At the top of the list: a review of your employee handbook.

Think your old handbook has been working well for years and that a review is not necessary?

Your handbook may contain provisions that are out dated, or promises to employees that you are not fulfilling. Maybe there are provisions which are illegal. Important workplace policies may have been omitted from the handbook. You may have no documentation that notice of those policies was given to employees. Or, despite there being several employees on your staff, you do not have an employee handbook. Without an employee handbook, you may also lack the means to document the existence of your workplace rules or establish that they have been effectively communicated to employees.

How costly can a mistake in a handbook be for an employer? In 2011, a Pennsylvania court of appeals affirmed a verdict of over $187 million against a major retail store on a breach of employment contract claim stemming from promises made in its employee handbook. The store promised one fifteen-minute paid break to hourly at-will employee associates who work between three and six hours a day, and two fifteen-minute paid breaks for those working over six hours. The store also touted, "Take a break and get paid for it!" Two problems: the store was not paying employees for those breaks; and employees read the handbook and were aware that they were not being paid. A class action lawsuit followed.

The employment was "at-will" and the store had diligently inserted a disclaimer in its handbook stating: "The policies and benefits presented in this handbook are for your information only and do not constitute terms or conditions of employment… This handbook is not a contract." Although it is important for an employee handbook to confirm with employees that the employment is "at-will" and to set forth a disclaimer, employers should be aware that these steps may not always preclude liability on a breach of employment contract claim.

In the case of this store, the Pennsylvania court of appeals upheld the trial court finding that the disclaimer confirmed that the employment was at-will, but it did not relieve the employer from its unilateral promise to pay employees for breaks. This case serves as an important reminder that employers must review their handbooks and all other communications to employees to ensure that they are not making promises that they do not intend to keep.

Choose a Social Network!

The social network you are looking for is not available.

Close
Coming up in June 2019...

Sales & Marketing: Selling Experiences

There are innumerable strategies that Hotel Sales and Marketing Directors employ to find, engage and entice guests to their property, and those strategies are constantly evolving. A breakthrough technology, pioneering platform, or even a simple algorithm update can cause new trends to emerge and upend the best laid plans. Sales and marketing departments must remain agile so they can adapt to the ever changing digital landscape. As an example, the popularity of virtual reality is on the rise, as 360 interactive technologies become more mainstream. Chatbots and artificial intelligence are also poised to become the next big things, as they take guest personalization to a whole new level. But one sales and marketing trend that is currently resulting in major benefits for hotels is experiential marketing - the effort to deliver an experience to potential guests. Mainly this is accomplished through the creative use of video and images, and by utilizing what has become known as User Generated Content. By sharing actual personal content (videos and pictures) from satisfied guests who have experienced the delights of a property, prospective guests can more easily imagine themselves having the same experience. Similarly, Hotel Generated Content is equally important. Hotels are more than beds and effective video presentations can tell a compelling story - a story about what makes the hotel appealing and unique. A video walk-through of rooms is essential, as are video tours in different areas of a hotel. The goal is to highlight what makes the property exceptional, but also to show real people having real fun - an experience that prospective guests can have too. The June Hotel Business Review will report on some of these issues and strategies, and examine how some sales and marketing professionals are integrating them into their operations.