Does My Company Need an Employee Handbook?

In general, having an employee handbook or policy manual is a good business practice, but specifically, there are some good reasons, from a legal standpoint, to create an employee handbook:

Consider this: Even one employee can cause you problems.

And the problems multiply exponentially the more employees you have.

Image this scenario: Your one employee is consistently late for work; sometimes he calls to let you know he will be late, and sometimes he doesn’t. You want to fire him for continued absence, but your attorney says you have no handbook that tells the employee what to expect about what happens in the case of chronic absenteeism.

Trust me; If you don’t have something in writing about this situation, the employee can charge that he didn’t know he could be fired for not showing up on time. And this could lead to a lawsuit.

The Purpose of an Employee Handbook

  • Employees like to know what is expected of them and they want to know that they are being treated the same way as other employees. The perception of unfair treatment can lead to disgruntled employees and, ultimately, to lawsuits. For example, if all employees know how many vacation days they receive, they won’t be wondering if other employees are getting more days.
  • Having the same rules for all employees makes running the business easier. There’s no need to think about what to do in a specific situation. Sure, there are times when there’s no written policy on an issue, but having some general guidelines can help deal with specific situations.
  • Written policies show employees that your business wants to be fair. That intent goes a long way towards good morale in general and in dealing with individual employees who are discontented.
  • Finally, written policies and procedures can help you deal with lawsuits. The policy manual can be used as evidence in a discrimination lawsuit; in fact, such a manual might even prevent a lawsuit.

Why an Employee Handbook isn’t Enough

After you have prepared that employee handbook for your business, there are several more things you should do:

Attorney Review
Have an attorney review the handbook for language, for conflicting or confusing language, and for legal issues. For example, your attorney can help you craft language that won’t make employees think they have a job for life.

Communication
Make sure all current employees know about the handbook and that it is available to them. Give each employee a copy (make sure you get a signature so you can show that all employees have received their copy).

Put a copy up on the company website. Remind employees about specific policies. In other words, make sure there’s no way an employee can plead ignorance of the policies and procedures in the manual.

Implement
Follow the handbook. Take action when you need to. Using the handbook to deal quickly with employee issues reinforces your intent to be fair and your intent to follow the handbook.

Revise
Re-visit the handbook periodically. Update policies that have changed (make sure you communicate the changes immediately!) and consider other changes to address issues that have come up. If you change a policy and you don’t change the handbook, you’re inviting legal issues.

No matter how many employees you have, an employee manual or employee handbook is an essential tool for running your business.

So have you created an employee handbook yet?  If not, we can help create one to fit your business needs.

How to Conduct An Internal Form I-9 Audit

When conducting your internal I-9 form audit start off by outlining your procedure and how you plan to conduct the audit

For Section Two of the I-9 form you’ll need to ensure one document from List A is included and completed or one document from List B and one from List C are listed and completed

When conducting your internal audit, Section Three of the I-9 form deals with reverification which only applies if evidence of employment authorization (List A or List C document) presented in Section two expires

The best way to correct the Form I-9 is to line through the portions of the form that contain incorrect information (preferably in a contrasting ink color), then enter the correct information, initial and date your correction


Dealing with I-9 Forms can be tricky. It’s definitely not the easiest part of your day, and it requires a lot of attention to detail. No one even wants to talk about the possibility of getting audited for your I-9 forms. But what if I told you it was actually pretty simple? In this blog, I am going to list off the six steps you need to conduct your own internal Form I-9 audit. So if you ever hear ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) knocking on your door, you’ll be ready!

Step One: Outline Your Procedure

When conducting your internal I-9 form audit start off by outlining your procedure and how you plan to conduct the audit. Your internal audit should concentrate on key problems that frequently arise during the completion of the I-9 form.

Conducting the Internal Audit – When preparing to conduct your internal audit be sure you account for the need of the following criteria:

  • Unbiased – Make sure the selection of Forms I-9 for an internal audit is not based on the employee’s race or nation origin. Either audit all forms, or audit a truly random sample of forms. An organization may not selectively choose which forms to audit.
  • Annual – This provides a defense against allegations of targeted internal Form I-9 auditing. Internal audit processes should mimic government compliance audit processes. This not only verifies Forms I-9 on file, but it also trains the Human Resources Department to prepare for actual government compliance audits.
  • Consistent – Either keep copies of all I-9 verification documents, or none of them. If your records are not complete, then you must either obtain the missing documents, or dispose of all collected verification documents.
  • Knowledgeable – Designate an “I-9 Officer” or Company Representative, responsible for knowing and applying Form I-9 rules. The authorized I-9 Officer should achieve the following:
    • Become well-versed on the correct completion of the Form I-9
    • Develop and enforce a compliant program
    • Create and implement internal training procedures
    • Conduct regular internal audits
    • Have a plan of action in the event of an ICE audit

Step Two: Auditing Section One of the I-9 Form

You’ll need to make sure you’re gathering all of the information below to complete step two, auditing Section One of the I-9 form.

Employee Information

  • Employee first and last names completed
  • Maiden name or other names if it is applicable; “N/A” for “Other Names Used” if it does not apply
  • Full address fields completed – No PO boxes allowed
  • Date of birth in mm/dd/yyyy format
  • Social Security Number (optional); Social Security Number mandatory for
  • E-Verify participants

Citizenship/Immigration Status

  • Status is selected (not more than one)
  • Lawful Permanent Resident – including alien registration number
  • If employee is not a permanent resident but has authorization to work in the United States, the alien number or admission number must be included and correctly stated
  • Expiration date of employment authorization is included and correctly stated

Employee Attestation

  • Employee’s signature
  • Date of employee’s execution of form
  • Form I-9 signed on the first day of employment or the period between the job being accepted by the employee and the first day of employment
  • Preparer/Translator Certification
  • Signature of preparer/translator if applicable
  • Name of preparer/translator correctly stated
  • Address of preparer/translator correctly stated

Step Three: Auditing Section Two of the I-9 Form

For Section Two of the I-9 form you’ll need to ensure one document from List A is included and completed or one document from List B and one from List C are listed and completed.

List A (Identity and Employment Authorization)

  • Appropriate document listed
  • List A document title correctly stated
  • List A document issuing authority correctly stated
  • List A document number correctly stated
  • List A document expiration date, if applicable, correctly stated
  • Receipt showing application for document accepted; awaiting original to be presented within 90 days

List B (Identity)

  • List B document title correctly stated
  • List B document issuing authority correctly stated
  • List B document number correctly stated
  • List B document expiration date, if applicable, correctly stated
  • Receipt showing application for document accepted; awaiting original to be presented within 90 days

List C (Employment Authorization)

  • Employee’s first day of employment correctly stated (mm/dd/yyyy)
  • Signature of Employer/Authorized Representative present and in correct box
  • Date of certification correctly stated (mm/dd/yyyy)
  • Certification signed by the third business day after the hire date
  • Title of Authorized Representative correctly stated
  • Last Name and First Name of Authorized Representative correctly stated
  • Employer’s Business or Organization Name correctly stated
  • Address of business correctly stated – No PO boxes allowed

Step Four: Auditing Section Three of the I-9 Form

When conducting your internal audit, Section Three of the I-9 form deals with reverification which only applies if evidence of employment authorization (List A or List C document) presented in Section two expires. Step four also covers what to do if you’re missing any I-9 forms.

  • Do not reverify: US Citizens and Noncitizen Nationals, or Lawful Permanent
  • Residents (I-551)
  • If employee listed an expiration date in Section 1, employment eligibility
  • reverified on or before expiration date
  • Date of rehire, if applicable (mm/dd/yyyy)
  • New name listed, if applicable
  • Document title correctly stated
  • Document number correctly stated
  • Employment authorization document expiration date (mm/dd/yyyy)
  • Signature of Authorized Representative present and correctly placed
  • Date of company certification (mm/dd/yyyy)
  • Printed name of Authorized Representative

Missing Forms I-9

For current employees – require employee to present documentation and complete a new Form I-9 with current dates. Date of hire will be the employee’s actual date of hire, which may have been years earlier. Attach a memo to the Form I-9 explaining the discrepancy between the date of hire and the date of completion of the Form I-9. Sign and date the memo.

For former employees – date and attach a memo to Forms I-9 for any terminated employees with missing or incorrect Form I-9 information. Retain it with other Forms I-9. Documenting this demonstrates an employer’s good faith effort to correct the forms by performing an internal self-audit.

Step Five: Addressing Form I-9 with Errors

Errors are bound to happen. Especially when you’re dealing with I-9 forms. But here’s what you do to ensure you keep on trucking!

Easily correctable – you may do so on the form. The best way to correct the Form I-9 is to line through the portions of the form that contain incorrect information (preferably in a contrasting ink color), then enter the correct information. Initial and date your correction. Never use white correction fluid. If you have previously made changes on Forms I-9 using white correction fluid instead, USCIS recommends that you attach a note to the corrected Forms I-9 explaining what happened. Be sure to sign and date the note.

Not easily correctable – complete a new Form I-9.

The old Form I-9 is attached to the new one, along with a note explaining the reason for creating a new Form I-9. Do not throw away the old form.

Step Six: Administrative Wrap Up

You’ve just completed conducting your internal I-9 Form! But you’re not completely done, yet. There are still a few administrative things you’ll need to wrap up.

Photocopies of List 2 documents – if they exist, are attached to the Form I-9 and are readable. It is not mandatory to make photocopies (except in Colorado), but if they are made, they must be kept. If photocopies are made for one employee, they must be made for all employees.

Employers enrolled in E-Verify must keep copies of the following documents if they are presented by the employee – US Passport or Passport Card, Permanent Resident Card (I-551), or Employment Authorization Card (I-766).

Manual Audit Log – The list of the Forms I-9 containing errors is completed. (This is the audit log that shows you have made a good faith effort to ensure Form I-9 compliance. The log should contain three columns: employee’s name, the errors, and the actions taken to rectify the errors.)

Why You Need To Do This, Right Now

Now you’re on your way to conducting a flawless Form I-9 internal audit. But why was this so important? Recently there has been an increase in enforcement for Form I-9 audits for employers. So what exactly changed?

On January 10, 2018, early morning reports of raids by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) confirmed what had been assumed – worksite enforcement has been increased and employers need to take note. The continued reports of high-profile ICE raids are definitely intentional. ICE wants employers to know that they’ve increased enforcement and they want you to take this very seriously. The current administration also appears to be building upon successful tactics that were used during both the Bush and Obama eras by focusing on administrative arrests of employees and requests for Forms I-9 through a Notice of Inspection (NOI) to employers. ICE conducted 1,279 audits of I-9 forms in 2016 and that number is expected to rise dramatically under the new enforcement focus.

Sure this can be scary, but knowing how to conduct your own internal I-9 form audits can help. And the word to remember for this process is “thorough.” An internal audit should include an in-depth review of all of an organization’s Forms I-9. Considering the limited resources and time of an organization, a comprehensive review of all I-9 records may not be feasible. In this case, organizations are encouraged to review a significant and fair sample of Forms I-9 to determine where the majority of errors/omissions occur, how to correct these, and how to implement better training and policies to ensure proper completion and compliance moving forward. For more information on self-auditing guidelines see the Department of Justice publication: Guidance for Employers Conducting Internal Employment Eligibility Verification Form I-9 Audits.

Let AZ HR Hub know how we can help your company.

30 employee handbook do’s and don’ts from the NLRB

To help employers craft handbooks that don’t violate the National Labor Relations Act, the National Labor Relations Board has issued a compilation of rules it has found to be illegal — and rewritten them to illustrate how they can comply with the law.

It was issued as a memorandum by NLRB General Counsel Richard F. Griffin, Jr. to “help employers to review their handbooks and other rules, and conform them, if necessary, to ensure they are lawful.”

Specifically, the memorandum points out employer policies found to violate and conform to Section 7 of the NLRA.

The main area of concern

Section 7 mandates that employees be allowed to participate in “concerted activity” to help improve the terms and conditions of their work.

The NLRB has made it abundantly clear recently that it’s on the lookout for rules that:

  • explicitly restrict protected concerted activity, and/or
  • could be construed to restrict protected Section 7 activity.

One thing the memorandum makes very clear: extremely subtle variations in language could be the difference between having a legal policy in the NLRB’s eyes and having one that’s viewed as violating the NLRA.

What to say, what not to say

Here are many of the dos and don’ts highlighted by the memorandum, separated by topic:

Rules regarding confidentiality

  • Illegal: “Do not discuss ‘customer or employee information’ outside of work, including ‘phone numbers [and] addresses.’” The NLRB said, in addition to the overbroad reference to “employee information,” the blanket ban on discussing employee contact info, without regard for how employees obtain that info, is facially illegal.
  • Illegal: “Never publish or disclose [the Employer’s] or another’s confidential or other proprietary information. Never publish or report on conversations that are meant to be private or internal to [the Employer].” The NLRB said a broad reference to “another’s” information, without clarification, would reasonably be interpreted to include other employees’ wages and other terms and conditions of employment.
  • Illegal: Prohibiting employees from “disclosing … details about the [Employer].” The NLRB said this is a broad restriction that failed to clarify that it doesn’t restrict Section 7 activity.
  • Legal: “No unauthorized disclosure of ‘business “secrets” or other confidential information.’”
  • Legal: “Misuse or unauthorized disclosure of confidential information not otherwise available to persons or firms outside [Employer] is cause for disciplinary action, including termination.”
  • Legal: “Do not disclose confidential financial data, or other non-public proprietary company information. Do not share confidential information regarding business partners, vendors or customers.”

The NLRB said the last three rules above were legal because: “1) they do not reference information regarding employees or employee terms and conditions of employment, 2) although they use the general term “confidential,” they do not define it in an overbroad manner, and 3) they do not otherwise contain language that would reasonably be construed to prohibit Section 7 communications.”

Rules regarding conduct toward the company and supervisors

  • Illegal: “Be respectful to the company, other employees, customers, partners, and competitors.”
  • Illegal: “Do ‘not make fun of, denigrate, or defame your co-workers, customers, franchisees, suppliers, the Company, or our competitors.’”
  • Illegal: “Be respectful of others and the Company.”
  • Illegal: “No defamatory, libelous, slanderous or discriminatory comments about [the Company], its customers and/or competitors, its employees or management.’”

The NLRB said the rules above were unlawfully overbroad because: “employees reasonably would construe them to ban protected criticism or protests regarding their supervisors, management, or the employer in general.”

  • Illegal: “Disrespectful conduct or insubordination, including, but not limited to, refusing to follow orders from a supervisor or a designated representative.”
  • Illegal: “‘Chronic resistance to proper work-related orders or discipline, even though not overt insubordination’ will result in discipline.”

The NLRB said the rules above, while banning “insubordination,” also ban “conduct that does not rise to the level of insubordination, which reasonably would be understood as including protected concerted activity.”

  • Illegal: “Refrain from any action that would harm persons or property or cause damage to the Company’s business or reputation.”
  • Illegal: “It is important that employees practice caution and discretion when posting content [on social media] that could affect [the Employer’s] business operation or reputation.”
  • Illegal: “Do not make ‘statements “that damage the company or the company’s reputation or that disrupt or damage the company’s business relationships.”‘”
  • Illegal: “Never engage in behavior that would undermine the reputation of [the Employer], your peers or yourself.”

The NLRB said the rules above “were unlawfully overbroad because they reasonably would be read to require employees to refrain from criticizing the employer in public.

  • Legal: “No ‘rudeness or unprofessional behavior toward a customer, or anyone in contact with’ the company.”
  • Legal: “Employees will not be discourteous or disrespectful to a customer or any member of the public while in the course and scope of [company] business.”

The NLRB said the rules above are legal because they wouldn’t lead an employee to believe they restrict criticism of the company.

  • Legal: “Each employee is expected to work in a cooperative manner with management/supervision, coworkers, customers and vendors.” The NLRB says employees would reasonably understand that this states the employer’s legitimate expectation that employees work together in an atmosphere of civility.
  • Legal: “Each employee is expected to abide by Company policies and to cooperate fully in any investigation that the Company may undertake.” The NLRB said this rule is legal because “employees would reasonably interpret it to apply to employer investigations of workplace misconduct rather than investigations of unfair labor practices or preparations for arbitration.”
  • Legal: “‘Being insubordinate, threatening, intimidating, disrespectful or assaulting a manager/supervisor, coworker, customer or vendor will result in’ discipline.” The NLRB said: “Although a ban on being  disrespectful’ to management, by itself, would ordinarily be found to unlawfully chill Section 7 criticism of the employer, the term here is contained in a larger provision that is clearly focused on serious misconduct, like insubordination, threats, and assault. Viewed in that context, we concluded that employees would not reasonably believe this rule to ban protected criticism.”

Rules regarding conduct between employees

  • Illegal: “‘Don’t pick fights’ online.”
  • Illegal: “Do not make ‘insulting, embarrassing, hurtful or abusive comments about other company employees online,’ and ‘avoid the use of offensive, derogatory, or prejudicial comments.’”
  • Illegal: “Show proper consideration for others’ privacy and for topics that may be considered objectionable or inflammatory, such as politics and religion.”
  • Illegal: “Do not send ‘unwanted, offensive, or inappropriate’ e-mails.”

The NLRB said the rules above were unlawfully overbroad because employees would reasonably construe them to restrict protected discussions with their co-workers.

  • Legal: “[No] ‘Making inappropriate gestures, including visual staring.’”
  • Legal: “Any logos or graphics worn by employees ‘must not reflect any form of violent, discriminatory, abusive, offensive, demeaning, or otherwise unprofessional message.’”
  • Legal: “[No] ‘Threatening, intimidating, coercing, or otherwise interfering with the job performance of fellow employees or visitors.’”
  • Legal: “No ‘harassment of employees, patients or facility visitors.’”
  • Legal: “No ‘use of racial slurs, derogatory comments, or insults.’”

The NLRB said the rules above were legal because: “when an employer’s professionalism rule simply requires employees to be respectful to customers or competitors, or directs employees not to engage in unprofessional conduct, and does not mention the company or its management, employees would not reasonably believe that such a rule prohibits Section 7-protected criticism of the company.

Marijuana in the workplace: Balancing competing obligations

How can you reconcile conflicting laws and keep your workplace both safe and compliant?

5 Critical Components Every Job Description Must Contain

A job description need not account for every task that might ever be done. Here are the most critical components of a good job description.

  • Heading information.This should include job title, pay grade or range, reporting relationship (by position, not individual), hours or shifts, and the likelihood of overtime or weekend work.
  • Summary objective of the job.List the general responsibilities and descriptions of key tasks and their purpose, relationships with customers, coworkers, and others, and the results expected of incumbent employees.
  • Qualifications.State the education, experience, training, and technical skills necessary for entry into this job.
  • Special demands.This should include any extraordinary conditions applicable to the job (for example, heavy lifting, exposure to temperature extremes, prolonged standing, or travel).
  • Job duties and responsibilities.Only two features of job responsibility are important: identifying tasks that comprise about 90 to 95 percent of the work done and listing tasks in order of the time consumed (or, sometimes, in order of importance).
    • The first task listed should be the most important or time-consuming one, and so on.
    • Employers can cover 90 to 95 percent or more of most tasks and responsibilities in a few statements.
    • It’s more important to list what must be performed and accomplished than how, if there is more than one way to do it. Being too specific on how to accomplish a duty could lead to ADA issues when an employee asks for an accommodation.

Bottom Line

Creating and maintaining job descriptions isn’t difficult. In fact, sometimes businesses use the development of job descriptions as a means of opening new lines of communication with employees. Employees want to be heard, and the development of job descriptions is a perfect opportunity to increase employee involvement.

If employers approach the process correctly, it can even be fun! The reward for management is a useful tool that helps guide many critical employment decisions and serves as an important consideration in the defense of administrative actions and lawsuits.

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