To ensure that your employee handbook provides the protection that it should, you need to periodically revisit all policies in the handbook and provide updates to keep them in compliance with new laws, regulations and case law. Three areas that you may want to specifically include in your review are: (1) adding a policy regarding the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA); (2) adding or updating your social media policy; and (3) extending anti-discrimination and anti-harassment policies to text messaging.
GINA elevates genetic information to the level of a protected class; genetic information includes information about an individual’s genetic tests, information about the genetic tests of a family member, and family medical history. One component of GINA compliance is to never request genetic information on any medical certification forms. In addition, place a warning on the form that medical providers should not provide your company with this information. The employee handbook should spell out requirements of GINA and the ways in which your company is complying.
Many companies are taking a lenient approach to social media that is consistent with their approach to personal e-mail (defining what constitutes acceptable use and putting it in writing). Although this approach will not necessarily lead to trouble, the employee handbook should clearly prohibit disclosure of trade secrets or proprietary, confidential information. It should also include a warning that comments on social media that are in conflict with the company’s policies are prohibited.
Finally, the employee handbook should clearly state that discriminating or harassing statements made from one employee to a co-worker will not be tolerated at any time and that this includes the use of text messaging. It does not matter whether the employee does the messaging on or off “the clock,” or whether the employee uses a personal cell phone or work phone. If you need support in making sure that your employee handbook is current and offers all the protections that it is intended to provide, the attorneys at Benesch can offer assistance.
For more information, please contact Patrick Peters at firstname.lastname@example.org or (216) 363-4434.