Four Policy Reviews in Your Next Employee Handbook Update

January 30, 2017

The start of the year is prime time for employers to review employee handbooks. Employers may wish to pay attention to certain policies due to recent changes in the law. Some of these relate to the Defense of Trade Secrets Act, Protected Classes, Breaks for Nursing Mothers, and Drug and Alcohol Use.

Defense of Trade Secrets Act (DTSA). Confidential Information Policies and Non-disclosure Agreements, must include notice of the DTSA’s immunity exceptions. Such notice permits the employee to release confidential information or trade secrets in certain situations.

Protected Classes.Employers should review the list of protected classes in their policies prohibiting discrimination, harassment, and retaliation in order to ensure compliance with federal, state, and local laws. For example, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) views sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination as a form of sex discrimination.

Nursing Mothers. Federal law requires that employers provide unpaid, reasonable break time for an employee to express breast milk for one year after her child’s birth.

Drug and Alcohol-free Workplace.With an increasing number of states enacting both medical and recreational marijuana use laws, employers should consider revising policies to clearly tell employees the employer’s stance on drug testing and how the use of marijuana (even when outside of the workplace) may impact the results of such tests and employment opportunities.

In addition to the above considerations, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has focused its attention on numerous handbook policies in its quest to protect employees’ rights to engage in protected, concerted activity. Employers should ensure their policies concerning workplace recordings, positive employee attitudes, social media and communications, solicitation, and others comply with current NLRB decisions.