Conducting a Successful Policy Review
Policies, compliance posters, and forms need to be periodically reviewed to ensure that they adhere to applicable laws. Since the beginning of the year brings new laws, now is a good time to conduct this review. Here are some tips for conducting a successful review.
Sexual Harassment Policies
A comprehensive policy to prevent and respond to sexual harassment should be in place. Massachusetts and Maine require employers to have a policy against sexual harassment and to distribute the policy to employees annually. Clearly state that sexual harassment and retaliation are prohibited. Policy should apply to employees, applicants, clients, customers, and other third parties. Indicate the company will maintain confidentiality as much as possible. If it is determined a violation state that the company will take immediate and proportionate corrective action if it determines that a violation of the policy has occurred. These policies should include:
• Definition of sexual harassment.
• State the consequences for violating the policy.
• State the procedure for employee complaints and how to report potential violations.
• Encourage employees to respond to questions or to otherwise participate in investigations regarding alleged harassment.
Federal, state, and local laws prohibit employers from discriminating against applicants and employees based on age, race, sex, and religion. The list of protected characteristics has continued to change. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) now has protections on the basis of sex extend to sexual orientation and gender identity. Federal law currently doesn’t expressly prohibit sexual-orientation or gender-identity discrimination, but several jurisdictions have enacted laws that expressly prohibit employers from discriminating against applicants and employees on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity. These policies should include:
• Includes all the characteristics protected under applicable federal, state, and local laws.
• Prohibits retaliation against employees for filing a complaint or participating in an investigation.
• Employment is based on an employee’s capabilities to perform the essential functions of a particular job, without regard to protected characteristics.
• This policy should include all aspects of employment, including hiring, training, benefits, promotions, compensation, discipline, and termination.
• Urges the reporting of all instances of discrimination.
• States any employee who violates the policy will be subject to appropriate disciplinary action, up to and including immediate termination.
Recently, new paid family leave and paid sick leave laws have been enacted. Certain states and local jurisdictions require wage replacement or require employers to give employees time off for covered absences or leave requirements. Some states and local jurisdictions also require employers to have written policies outlining the leave entitlement. Even if your state doesn’t require a written policy, have a clear policy outlining employee and employer rights and responsibilities related to leave. Leave laws also typically require employers to provide and/or post a notice about employees’ rights.
Your leave policies must be at least as generous as applicable federal, state, or local laws and should address:
• Who is eligible (include all requirements for eligibility, such as length of service and status as a full-time or part-time employee).
• Whether the leave is paid or unpaid.
• The types of absences covered by the policy.
• How employees can request leave.
• How much leave is available and how it accrues and how much leave can be carried over. Note: Leave laws often require employers to document this information and/or include sick leave accruals and balances on employee pay statements.
• Employee notice about the need for leave (many leave laws restrict the amount of notice employers may require).
• Documentation (many leave laws have rules on the documentation employers may require confirming the absence is covered).
• Benefits continuation (leave laws typically require employers to continue health and other benefits while the employee is on leave).
• Job reinstatement (under most leave laws, employees must be reinstated to the position they held prior to the start of leave or a comparable position).
• Anti-retaliation statement (many leave laws prohibit any adverse action be taken against an employee for taking leave or inquiring about their rights under the law).
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