Global Employee Handbooks

Most every major American employer has issued an employee handbook explaining to its US staff how its US workplace works. It has been said that “[a] well written, lawful [US domestic] employee handbook has no downsides; it provides…all the flexibility necessary to address innumerable possibilities when it comes to employee actions and inactions.” (J.B. Sandburg, “Creating a Great Employee Handbook,” (1/14))

In the United States, employee “handbooks”—which these days increasingly exist electronically on an organization’s intranet—summarize employees’ day-to-day terms and conditions of employment and benefits offerings. Staff handbooks cover topics as varied as “onboarding,” disciplinary rules, hours/work time/overtime, pay period, paid time off (absences, sickness policy, vacations, holidays), leave, benefits/health care/insurance, safety and security, dress code, smoking policy, expense reimbursement, access to employee emails/Internet, confidentiality, social networking and social media, coworker dating, antinepotism in hiring, “bounties” for recruiting new employees, discounts at local merchants, dispute resolution and many other subjects. In addition, all well-drafted American handbooks include a conspicuous “employment-at-will disclaimer” explaining that the document does not constitute an employment contract and reserving the employer’s right unilaterally to change or revoke the handbook, or any provision in it, at any time.

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Don Dowling

Don concentrates his practice on outbound international employment law as part of the firm’s Global Employer Solutions team. He advises multinational headquarters on cross-border employment law compliance, for example: +Global codes of conduct, whistleblowers hotlines, employee handbooks, HR policies and workplace safety codes +International restructurings, reductions-in-force and “change projects” +International compensation and benefits offerings +Global HR information systems and data privacy law compliance +Employment law matters in cross-border mergers, acquisitions and outsourcings +Globally-aligning individual employment agreements, restrictive covenants and employee intellectual property assignments +International internal investigations and cross-border HR compliance audits +Employing staff in new foreign countries and engaging overseas independent contractors +Cross-border collective representation, overseas works council consultations and cross-border employee representative strategies +Expatriate structuring, expatriate dismissals and expatriate duty of care

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