What Happens If…You Don’t Have an Employee Handbook in Arizona?

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If your company doesn’t have an employee handbook, you may be wondering if you even need one at all. Although employee handbooks aren’t required in Arizona, you may run into significant problems without one. For example:

You won’t be able to communicate company policies and expectations to your employees as effectively.

Everyone who starts a new job has to become familiar with the company’s culture and expectations around things like when to come into work, when to take time off, what paid holidays are provided, what to wear, and so forth.

An employee handbook can and should lay out most of these expectations so that new employees are familiar with them from the beginning. This will help employees adjust to their new work environment, keep human resources professionals and others from being asked the same questions repeatedly, and establish that your company has the same rules for all employees and wants to treat everyone fairly. In addition, if you fire an employee for violating a company policy, the fact that they received an employee handbook containing the policy will prevent them from claiming that they were never told about it. 

You will increase your chances of being sued. 

This can be the case for two reasons:

1) When information and procedures are not in place, people can infer that your actions are discriminatory or retaliatory. It also leaves room open for managers and supervisors to potentially take actions that are discriminatory or retaliatory.

2) The first thing that state and government agencies ask when conducting an investigation into employment issues (discrimination, harassment, overtime) is whether you had a clear written policy on the issue. 

Without an employee handbook, the likelihood is that you don’t have a clear written policy. This will be used against you by these state and federal agencies.  

It may not be clear to everyone that your company follows applicable rules and regulations.

While you might think it’s understood that your company follows Arizona and federal workplace rules and regulations, it’s a good idea to specifically acknowledge some of them – particularly rules regarding harassment and discrimination. This could be especially important if your company is sued because a written policy on harassment and discrimination that employees were required to read and acknowledge will communicate to a court that the company takes these issues seriously. 

It’s a good idea for an employee handbook to specifically address other rules as well. For example, it should lay out policies consistent with the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act, which prohibits all Arizona employers from discriminating against an employee who tests positive for marijuana but has a medical marijuana card. A handbook should also address how paid sick time is accrued in accordance with the Arizona Fair Wages and Healthy Families Act. Without a handbook, employees might not know what to expect regarding certain issues.

Your company’s policies on drug and alcohol testing may not be well understood.

Employees need to be informed about the company’s procedures when it comes to testing for drugs and alcohol. As previously mentioned, Arizona has certain legal requirements for employers surrounding employees’ medicinal use of medical marijuana. The state also has drug testing regulations that all employers must comply with. Laying out policies that are consistent with these rules in an employee handbook will help set expectations and could provide the company legal protection if an employee is fired for violating them.

An employee might think they have an employment contract even when they don’t.

Like most states, Arizona is an “at-will” employer, meaning that employees usually may be terminated for any non-discriminatory reason at any time, and they also may quit at any time. A well-written employee handbook will explicitly state this policy, along with the fact that the handbook itself isn’t an employment contract. This will help if an employee ever sues your company after being fired and alleges that they had an employment contract.

Note, however, that disclaimers in an employee handbook won’t necessarily invalidate another implied employment contract that contradicts the disclaimers, such as one provided orally or in writing during the interview process. See, e.g., In Roberson v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., No. 1 CA-CV 00-0555 (2002).

IT security protocols might not be followed.

Computer security is becoming more and more important as cyber threats mount. One of the first lines of defense is for your employees to establish good IT practices, including setting strong passwords and changing them periodically. A good employee handbook will explain company IT security protocols that every employee must follow. Without a handbook, these protocols may not be communicated effectively, which could result in a data breach, ransomware attack, or other security issues. 

There will not be a clear process for filing complaints.

An employee handbook should lay out this process, including the human resources personal and other individuals who are specifically designated to receive complaints. Without a handbook, an employee might make a complaint to someone who isn’t equipped to handle it appropriately. 

Contact Counxel Legal Firm

If you would like to learn more about employee handbooks, contact us at (480) 744-6621 or at request@counxel.com. Don’t forget to check out the good things that others are saying about the services they received from Timothy Coons on Google.

This article is intended for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice for your specific situation. Use of and access to this article does not create an attorney-client relationship between you and Counxel Legal Firm. Please contact request@counxel.com or (480) 744-6621 to request specific information for your situation.

*Conveniently located off the 101 Freeway and the US 60 in the middle of Phoenix, Scottsdale, Tempe, Chandler, Gilbert, Mesa, and Queen Creek!

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