Is a Business Legally Required to Follow its Own Policies/Handbook?

Business owners in Texas should have written policies and, ideally, an employee handbook that compiles all of the policies and expectations within the workplace. Employee handbooks can provide important information and protections for the employee and employer alike. Yet situations might arise in which an employer believes that a particular policy that is written in the employee handbook should not apply, or that a specific workplace policy the employer created previously should not be followed in a specific circumstance. In these types of scenarios, is a business legally required to follow its own policies or employee handbook?

The answer to the question will depend in part on the nature of the policy and the result of the employer’s decision not to follow it. In general, however, the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) explains that business policies in Texas do not create binding employment contracts between the employer and the employee.

Understanding Basic Legal Concerns About Business Policies and Handbooks

In general, employers in Texas can decide what types of workplace policies they want to have in place, and employers can decide when and how to enforce their policies. Since Texas is an employment-at-will state, employers are permitted to “set policies and change them at will depending upon the needs of the business.”

Accordingly, as an employer, you can decide what you want your workplace policies to be for requesting time off, dress codes, and general workplace culture. At any point in time, you can change the policies, and you do not have to follow your own business policies as long as they are policies that you created (and that are not required by state or federal law) and as long as diverting from those policies is not discriminatory.

You should also know that, in limited circumstances, a quick change to a workplace policy that adversely affects an employee and leads to the employee’s termination could result in a wrongful termination claim. It is generally a good idea to let employees know in advance about planned changes to workplace policies, especially if you do not intend to follow the policies you have outlined, in order to avoid future claims.

Employers Must Follow Business Policies That Reflect State or Federal Law

Most employee handbooks or written workplace policy documents should also provide employees with information about the employer’s policies concerning workplace discrimination, wage and hour laws, and workplace safety. Such requirements–which are set by state and federal law–are not optional.  Employers must follow them regardless of whether the employer expressly identifies them as policies in an employee handbook or not.  In addition, policies regarding PTO must be followed as written.

To be clear, when your employee handbook has policies concerning the required minimum wage, overtime pay according to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), rights against discrimination, and rights to workplace safety, you must follow these policies. Even if your employee handbook does not specifically discuss these issues as policies, you still must adhere to them in order to be in compliance with state and federal law.

Contact Our Dallas Employment Law Attorneys

If you have questions about establishing workplace policies and drafting an employee handbook for your business, or if you have concerns about your legal obligations as an employer when it comes to following the policies and procedures you have set, an experienced Texas employment lawyer at our firm can help. Contact Simon Paschal PLLC for more information.

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