It's The Law

When it comes to employee legal issues, you'd best do it by the book.
Magazine Contributor
2 min read

This story appears in the January 2000 issue of Business Start-Ups magazine. Subscribe »

Managing your human resources is probably the most challenging operational aspect of your business. Not only are you dealing with a range of individual personalities, but you also need to comply with a variety of local, state and federal employment regulations and their respective enforcement agencies.

So what do you do when you're not sure about the legal implications of your actions? You have a choice: You can guess, and risk the consequences of a mistake; you can pay an employment attorney for a consultation; or you can refer to The Employer's Legal Handbook (Nolo Press) by Fred S. Steingold, an attorney in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

This one-stop guide offers practical advice and answers questions ranging from the obvious to the obscure, from what you can ask in a hiring interview to creating benefit programs and more.

For example, do you need an employee handbook? In most cases, Steingold says, you're better off with one than without, but you need to be careful to use language that doesn't actually increase your legal exposure. So, in addition to listing grounds for dismissal, Steingold suggests including this information: "Employees do not have employment contracts unless they are in writing and signed by the company president," and "Our company reserves the right to terminate employees for reasons not stated in the handbook or for no reason at all." And while just about any management consultant will tell you your company should have a sexual harassment policy, this book provides you with a sample you can use either as is or as the foundation for developing your own.

Beyond the contents of the book itself, the author refers readers to a variety of resources for additional information and assistance, or to find the latest legal developments. Regardless of whether you have a professional human resources person on staff, at $31.95, The Employer's Legal Handbook is a worthwhile addition to your office reference library. It's available in bookstores or by calling (800) 992-6656.

Jacquelyn Lynn left the corporate world more than 13 years ago and has been writing about business and management from her home office in Winter Park, Florida, ever since. Contact her at

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