When was the last time you reviewed your employment policies and procedures? Do you provide your employees with an employee handbook? And if so, do you know what it says? These are all important questions. Understanding your policies, reviewing them to ensure that they still represent how you operate, and properly communicating these policies to your employees is essential to avoiding potential liability. Oklahoma courts have interpreted some employee handbooks as creating enforceable contractual rights. Therefore, here are some tips that might help you think about legal issues that could arise.
In Oklahoma, the general rule is that employment contracts are terminable at the will of either party. It is important to make sure that the handbook does not include any language that implies a right to extended employment.
Using mandatory language such as “will, shall, or must” may imply a contractual right to a formal disciplinary process. In order to avoid this, employers should use discretionary language such as “may result in,” or “has discretion to.”
It is helpful to include an introduction stating that the handbook does not create any contractual rights and is only offered as a general guide to company policies.
After giving the handbook to a new employee, obtain a signed acknowledgment document from the new employee stating that the employee acknowledges receipt of the handbook, has reviewed its contents, and understands that the handbook does not create any contractual rights. ¦