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Employment policies: Stay on top of these with legal support

Strong communication with employees should be a top priority for Ohio business owners. Without effective communication, the relationship between these two groups of people can suffer considerably and people wind up with far more questions than answers -- and far more disputes than resolutions.

This is why your employment handbook will be so critical. As noted in this article by the U.S. Small Business Administration, handbooks should be written and revised in a way that is clear and informative, but it is also vital that they are legally sound and fair. Below, we will look at three areas of your handbook that can benefit from having legal guidance.

In your employee handbook, you can set guidelines for work schedules and compensation. You might explain to workers expectations for punctuality or policies on working overtime without authorization. However, you cannot create or enforce terms that violate an employee's rights as a non-exempt employee, such as saying overtime will not be paid for working over 40 hours per week.

Including instructions for dispute resolution may also be valuable. Limiting the resources devoted to dispute resolutions is something employers find very helpful, so they may include arbitration or mediation clauses in an employment handbook. However, there are state and federal laws that govern legal disputes of which you need to be aware; ignoring or misstating these in your handbook can lead to serious complications.

Workplace conduct can also be something important to include in your handbook. As an employer, you have the opportunity to define the tone of your workplace in terms of dress, behavior and ethics. Addressing these in the employee handbook is a good way to communicate how you want to see the workplace function. Again, however, restricting protected behaviors in a handbook will not be tolerated.

Creating a handbook that is clear, effective and, most importantly, legally sound can be an employer's best way to prevent costly disputes with employees. Working with an attorney when drafting or revising your handbook will give you the guidance and perspective you need to protect yourself, your employees and your business.

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