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No, there is no legal requirement that companies have employee handbooks. That being said, for a variety of reasons most companies have handbooks.

The better question to ask yourself is – is it a good idea to have an employee handbook for my business?  For most employers the answer is yes.  Handbooks can serve many needs from an HR perspective: they set the tone for the company’s (executive management’s) formal communications with the employee; a well-drafted handbook can communicate expectations, rules, policies and procedures (in writing); and a handbook can further the company’s culture or mission.  In some situations communicating certain policies can even afford you certain legal defenses in the event of a lawsuit. 

Finally, there are some state and federal laws that require employers to communicate to employees certain rights they have, whether you have a handbook or not.  For example, Minnesota requires employers to notify employees of their rights under the state’s employee personnel file law, and if you have a handbook you must notify employees of their right to disclose wages to co-workers and how they can sue the company for infringing on this right.  At the federal level the Department of Labor (DOL) requires employers to provide a specific notification of rights under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) for covered employers, which many employers include in the handbook in the guise of an FMLA policy.  And if you want to test for drugs in many states, including Minnesota, you’ll need at a minimum a written drug testing policy communicated in advance to employees (and even applicants) before you test.  Combining policies into a cohesive communication to employees often serves as an effective vehicle for delivery.

Thompson Coe and myHRgenius Tip of the Week is not intended as a solicitation, does not constitute legal advice, and does not establish an attorney-client relationship.


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