Because Nevada is an At-Will state, many employers do not realize they should solidify their employment expectations into written rules, especially when it comes to letting employees know what actions can bring about their termination. While the general notion behind At-Will employment is that an employer can fire an employee without cause, it is not the whole picture.
What if your “problem” employee is a woman or another minority?
What if the employee suffers from a medical or mental condition the state classifies as a disability? Yes, you can freely fire them because you do not think they do their job appropriately, or their personality conflicts with other employees and supervisors, or even because you do not like the sound of their voice. However, be aware the other shoe gets to drop. That shoe is the former employee’s claim of discrimination, or any other offense they and their attorney can concoct.
While At-Will allows you to fire whomever you want, for whatever reason you want, it does not mean you are immune from being named in a lawsuit. So, how do you defend yourself? An employee manual. It can be called Policies and Procedures, Guidebook, or Handbook, but it is all the same vehicle to get your employment expectations expressed uniformly, and serves to protect you from employment claims down the line.
While there is no law requiring a business owner to create a manual, it can provide a business with invaluable legal protections.
Take an employee who either executes their job poorly or has personality conflicts with others. You are paying absolutely no attention to their race, gender, or disability. You only know that their behavior and job performance is eating up your payroll and causing a ripple effect down the line. If you simply fire this person based on At-Will principles, but they belong to a protected class of employee, you might get sued. Even if you told the employee it was because of their performance, you can still get sued.
However, if you had an employee manual which lists the employees’ job descriptions, details that certain consequences, including termination, can result from non-conformity with the job description, and have all employees sign and acknowledgment that they read the manual, then it will not matter if the employee is Joe Blow or the Pope, they are getting fired for breach of the manual.
Moreover, a breach puts the employee on defense, rather than giving them the playbook to call offense for discrimination, et al.
How can one employee cry foul over their termination when you have an entire manual dedicated to letting the whole team know that if any one of them steps out of line, they could each face the same termination?
An employee manual also sets the stage to put employees on notice for possible legal action after unlawful appropriation and misuse of trade secrets, client lists, and other proprietary information of the business. It can further set the stage for an employer’s monitoring of employee computers, social media, and other internet browsing. Never again can employees bank on the excuse “they didn’t know.” Take back control of your business, and give yourself the legal safety net you need to grow.
If you do not already have an employee manual, or have not updated your existing manual in the last two years, contact your business lawyer immediately.