Neither federal nor state law requires employers to have an employee manual or handbook. However, creating and maintaining an up to date employee handbook is a critical practice in today’s employment environment. First, having the employer’s practices and rules in one place provides a ready resource for employees and sets forth management’s expectations of workplace behavior. In addition, it provides guidelines that are critical to an employer to have in writing, such as prohibitions against sexual harassment and discrimination and the employer’s affirmation of equal employment opportunities. Furthermore, given recent United States Supreme Court decisions, providing employees with clear instructions in a handbook telling them how to proceed if they witness or are the victims of sexual harassment or other workplace discrimination is important for the employer. Doing so can provide the employer with a defense if the employee does not follow those instructions but then claims that he or she was victimized by such illegal activity.
On the other hand, New Hampshire and Vermont are both “employment-at-will” states. This means that either the employer or the employee may terminate the employment relationship at any time for any reason, subject to some exceptions. For example, if a federal or state law grants an employee the right to engage in an activity, such as jury duty, National Guard duty, or participating in a discrimination investigation, the employee cannot be retaliated against for engaging in that activity. In the same vein, if an employee manual is not carefully drafted by an attorney, an employee can claim that the handbook constitutes an “implied contract of employment.” This might prevent the employer from being able to easily discharge the employee on the basis that he or she is employed at will.
Our law office has been helping New Hampshire and Vermont companies draft and update employee handbooks for approximately 30 years. If your company needs legal assistance with to develop or update your employee handbook, call us at 800-909-LAWS (5297) or submit a questionnaire through this website.