Employment Policies and Practices

Company-wide employment policies are vital for businesses for a number of reasons. First, employment policies set the ground rules so that every person in the company is on the same page about the business or organization’s practices and expectations for its employees. Setting expectations in this manner can even avoid litigation in the first place. Second, ensuring that employment policies are established and known can provide protection for the company. For example, when defending against wrongful termination lawsuits, a company needs to be able to show that an employee knew the expectations and failed to meet them. A company with no established policy regarding employee expectations will have a much harder time demonstrating that an employee was let go for failing to meet expectations. Finally, various labor and employment laws actually require employers to have and implement certain practices, such as those regarding harassment and discrimination, or disability accommodation. Below are two vital areas where businesses need written company policies, as well as a recommended best practice for implementing these and other company policies.

At-Will Employment

Most states in the U.S. recognize that employment is “at-will”—that is, when the employee no longer wants to be there, he or she can quit without reason and without notice. Similarly, when the employer no longer wants to employ the employee, the employee can be discharged without cause and without notice. At-will employees can be let go for any reason – a good reason, a bad reason, no reason at all – so long as the reason is not illegal or discriminatory. For example, an employer’s reason for letting an employee go cannot be based on that employee’s race, age, gender, or religion. Unfortunately, though, in defending against a wrongful termination claim, which typically alleges that the employee was let go for an illegal reason, asserting that the employee was at-will and could be let go for any reason is not enough to win the case. Legitimate business reasons for the termination need to be proven to show the termination was not discriminatory or otherwise improper. This does not mean, however, that at-will status has no purpose. It does. When employees are not at-will, even if it is found that the termination was lawful, a court or other adjudicator can evaluate whether the discharge reason was “good enough” and, if not, order that the employee be reinstated. If an employee’s at-will status is intact, and the company proves the discharge was not unlawful, the sufficiency of the discharge reason becomes irrelevant. For these reasons, companies need to ensure that no actions are taken which unwittingly destroy their employees’ at-will status. An employment policy specifying that employees are hired at will is vital—as is ensuring that a company’s other policies do not destroy that status inadvertently.

Mandated Benefits

A variety of states and localities mandate that companies provide certain benefits to their employees, which need to be described in the company policies. These benefits can include, but are not limited to, unemployment insurance, workers’ compensation, short-term disability insurance, and paid holidays or sick leave. Sometimes these state or local requirements might even conflict with current company policy. It is important for employers to be familiar with the mandated benefits for their state and locality, as well as any requirements that their employees be informed of those benefits in writing.

Employee Handbooks and Policies

A handbook detailing a company’s policies can be vital to a business for a number of reasons. First, and very basically, it lets employees know what benefits the company is offering at the time the handbook is issued. Second, it can lay out the company’s expectations of employee performance, behavior, and attitude. Third, because the handbook lays out the company’s expectations for its employees, it can be used as a performance management tool. When an employee is not performing, the handbook can be used as a guidepost to demonstrate the expectations that the employee was not fulfilling. Fourth, it can meet the requirements of the various mandated benefits laws, mentioned above, to offer certain benefits and to put those benefits in writing. Finally, it can protect the company. For example, a handbook can advise employees about company monitoring of computer equipment and of the proper procedure to report harassment or discrimination.


Our experienced lawyers ensure that our clients have the necessary employment policies and practices in place to best protect their business based on their industry, company culture, and the laws applicable to the places where their employees work. Our services include:

  1. Training for management on the policies a company needs and how to implement them;
  2. Drafting/reviewing employee handbooks and policies;
  3. Providing phone and email guidance on the implementation and interpretation of policies, both generally and in specific situations;
  4. Providing a legal analysis on the appropriate policies and practices to implement in various situations including but not limited to harassment/discrimination, computer system usage, workplace violence, employee privacy issues, wage and hour, performance management, background checks, social media, and drug free workplace.


Employees can bring a range of claims arising out of employment policies, or more frequently the lack of appropriate policies. When employees claim that they were denied a promotion because they did not receive the performance evaluation promised in an employee handbook, that their privacy was violated by the company’s GPS tracking system, or any one of a number of other claims arising out of a company’s employment policies, our experienced litigators are ready to protect and defend our clients’ interests. Our services include:

  1. Defending employee claims arising from the company’s policies and practices in state and federal courts and agencies;
  2. Assisting with internal investigations of current-employee claims;
  3. Connecting you with industry experts such as outside investigators where necessary;
  4. Representing you in alternative dispute resolution forums, such as mediation or arbitration, to resolve such claims efficiently and cost-effectively.

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