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Year-end reminder to update employee handbooks

The new year will be here soon. Consider this to be your annual reminder to review your employee handbook. Handbooks should be reviewed regularly as employment laws change at the local, state, and national level. Failure to update your handbook can increase your exposure to risk and liability.

Here are some of the key issues to look out for this year:

  • Natural hairstyles: The CROWN Act is making headway across the nation. In 2022, Massachusetts and Maine were among the most recent states to add workplace protections for natural hairstyles. New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut had already passed their own bills in prior years. Take a look at your grooming and dress code policies to ensure they align with local law or toget ahead of federal legislation that could be coming.
  • Marijuana legalization laws: Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island are among those states that have employee protections in place for the off-duty use of cannabis. Generally, employers cannot terminate or take disciplinary action against an employee based solely on their private and lawful use of cannabis outside the workplace.
  • Expense reimbursement: Laws in Massachusetts and New York (among others), require employers to reimburse employees for various expenses, beyond what’s required by federal law. Employers risk lawsuits for failing to reimburse employees adequately and on time.
  • Pay disclosure: Recently, New York joined a handful of states that require employers to disclose salary ranges for their job openings. Connecticut’s disclosure law went into effect in 2021, but the state was still releasing guidance this year. Rhode Island’s law, passed in 2021, will go into effect in January 2023. Where appropriate, you may want to update your employee handbook to note compliance with those laws when posting jobs. Likewise, employers can expect a period of disruption while employees learn what their peers are making and request raises, making this a good time to review your practices and handbook language surrounding raise considerations.
  • Parental and sick leave: Make sure your policies are updated to reflect current state laws for paid parental and sick leave. Roughly a dozen states and municipalities enacted new paid leave laws in 2022. Currently, 10 states have paid parental leave programs and more are likely coming.
  • Remote and hybrid work policies: If you didn’t review your remote work policies in the transition after COVID-19, now is a good time to do that. Remote policies should address a number of issues, from expected work hours and availability to dress code issues on remote calls, IT equipment matters and cybersecurity. Meanwhile, if you have any employees working out of state, make sure your handbook complies with each state’s requirements.