Pennsylvania Employee Handbooks laws & HR compliance analysis

Pennsylvania Employee Handbooks: What you need to know

Employee handbooks should be drafted according to the particular needs of each individual workplace and in accordance with the requirements of state and federal law. Employers should try to develop policies and procedures that reflect the company's size, employee needs, and company philosophy. Employers should have an attorney familiar with state labor and employment laws review their handbooks for legal accuracy and timeliness. Outdated or erroneous policies can be as dangerous as not having policies at all.
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Employers should exercise caution when developing handbooks and related policy statements in order to avoid contract claims made by employees based upon handbook language. To avoid such claims, employers should issue only general statements of policy in employee handbooks and should always include an explicit statement reserving the right to alter, amend, or change any handbook policy at any time and for any reason.
Pennsylvania is an “employment-at-will” state. Therefore, an employer may generally terminate an employment relationship at any time and for any reason unless a collective bargaining agreement, employment contract, existing law, or recognized public policy provides otherwise.
Despite a strong presumption in favor of the at-will standard, however, the Pennsylvania courts have stated that a handbook may create an employment contract when it contains a clear indication of the employer's intent to do so (Ruzicki v. Catholic Cemeteries Assn. of Diocese of Pittsburgh, 610 A.2d 495 (PA Super. Ct. 1992)).
Absent such language, Pennsylvania courts are reluctant to find that the at-will presumption has been overcome. Nevertheless, employers should be diligent in crafting ...

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