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Must-have employee handbook provisions for 2016

Employee handbooks aren't likely to be the first thing on the mind of an entrepreneur, particularly one with just a few employees.

But given the continuous changes in both state and federal law, it's important for all employers to have in place an up-to-date handbook that outlines specific provisions regarding modern-day activities as they relate to the law.

Here are a few that small business owners may want to consider addressing:

Social media references

Courts have deemed that employees' free speech-particularly regarding collective bargaining-around the "water cooler" is protected. Today, water cooler conversations have expanded to social media platforms.

Employment handbooks should be updated to address social media as it relates to the rights of employees to post comments on Facebook, Twitter or other outlets regarding working conditions, pay and other workplace issues.

Social media privacy

Given the prevalence of technological devices, employees today are often accessing personal email or social media accounts on company laptops or other company owned equipment. Employment handbooks should include provisions on whether such information is private to an employee or accessible by the employer and when.

Medical leave allowances

Under the FMLA, employees can take up to 12 weeks of unpaid time off to care for themselves or a loved one. Many companies today have extended such time off-particularly for maternity or paternity leave-past 12 months. Others provide employee pay during this time. Handbooks should address specific allowances, if any, above and beyond the federal guidelines.

Tobacco and medical marijuana use

Given today's changing atmosphere and legality surrounding tobacco use and marijuana, employers should make sure handbooks reference both e-cigarette use and medical marijuana use and how each will be treated based on the law and the workplace preferences.

Employers that need assistance creating or revising company handbooks to reflect updated changes in the law and business policies should reach out to an experienced employment law attorney for guidance.

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Robert Kaufman has been selected as a 2013 Top Rated Lawyer in ‘Commercial Litigation’ as will be published in the May issue of The American Lawyer & Corporate Counsel magazine.Alex Kaufman has been selected as a 2013 Top Rated Lawyer in ‘Commercial Litigation’ as will be published in the December issue of The American Lawyer & Corporate Counsel magazine.

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