A January, 2016 decision by the federal district court for the District of Massachusetts reiterates the importance of careful drafting and tailoring of employee handbooks and policies so as to avoid contractually binding obligations on management to their employees. Massachusetts law has long held that employee handbooks and policies may in some circumstances be interpreted as implied contracts and establishing binding obligations on the part of the employer to adhere to the policies and rights set forth therein. Such contractual obligations would impede upon employer’s general flexibility under the law in at-will employment relationships.
Key elements to avoid any such contractual requirements generally include:
- bold and consistent disclaimers asserting that the policy is not a contract of employment;
- avoid granting specific rights and remedies to particular scenarios, i.e., avoiding granting “due process” rights and/or mandatory progressive discipline procedures;
- make clear that the handbook is non-negotiable; and
- state that the policies are subject to change in the sole and exclusive discretion of management.
Under Massachusetts law, great caution must be used in drafting employment handbooks and policies. Please feel free to contact Finneran & Nicholson, P.C., if you have any questions in reviewing, updating and adopting employment handbooks and policies. Should you have any questions regarding these or other employment matters, please do not hesitate to contact us.
Please note that the written policies required for compliance with these regulations should be tailored and reviewed for the specific circumstances and practices of your business. Should you require assistance in meeting your compliance obligations under these regulations, please do not hesitate to contact us.