Visits Along the Spectrum between “Can we?” and “Do we have to?”


The spectrum tracks questions often asked by organizational leaders.


In future posts here, we will visit some of those issues.


To begin –

Do we have to have an “employee handbook?”


The short answer is, “not necessarily.”


The longer answer:


There may be applicable external requirements (including but not limited to):

  • State requirements for written information to employees about pay days, places and times of wage payments
  • Industry requirements (e.g., day care centers) for certain written “personnel policies”
  • Public contractor and bidder requirements for written harassment policies


Beyond any requirement to reduce an employment policy to writing and share it with employees, there are reasonable considerations for choosing to do so:

  • Describing the organization’s history and its role in its industry, community, etc.
  • Reinforcing Mission and Values, which form the basis for mutual workplace expectations of employees and the organization
  • Outlining workplace practices such as schedules, time off of work or benefits


An employer in an At-Will (state) environment would do well to clearly communicate that at-will employment relationship (in writing) and to avoid any conflicting policy statement or practice that would be inconsistent with an at-will relationship.


A written policy or handbook full of them needs routine care and feeding.  Upon initial writing and introduction into the workplace, care is needed to avoid unintentional promises by the organization and to well preserve appropriate organizational/ management discretion.  Legal counsel may be valuable.


Once a document is introduced, periodic review is critical.  After all, things change: external regulatory things, internal expectations and practices.