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Legal Issues

Mismatched Socks Won't Get You Sued - May 15, 2012

Mismatched socks won't get you sued, but mismatched policies will. When you were a kid you probably put together some eye-popping ensembles that, depending on the kind of mom she was, caused your parent to either roll her eyes or send you straight back upstairs to change your clothes. I have never been one for mixing plaid and polk-a-dots, but I was known for an entertaining clash of colors in many of my childhood outfits. While a truly awful outfit might get you five minutes of YouTube fame, it won't normally get you sued. Mismatched policies are never charming, creative or cute, and they will get you sued.


In the employment world consistency with a certain amount of built-in flexibility is critical to minimizing litigation risk when dealing with employees. With the multiple ports of information that we have regarding how our policies are distributed, evaluated or trained on, we need to be very careful that policies match in all these various venues. If your intranet posted policy doesn't match perfectly with what you post on your website which then doesn't match what you post next to the time clock, which doesn't match the binder in your supervisor's office, you create enormous litigation risks. When policies are reviewed or changed if you don't clawback all of the various policies that now need to be updated you leave a potentially damaging document in the public arena. This is particularly problematic for employers who have multiple physical sites where policies may be posted or living in dusty binders that are only unearthed at the time of litigation.


Basic suggestions for managing this problem are to keep and maintain an updated list of where policies are distributed and how that distribution occurs. Issue with new policies a statement that they have replaced the old policies and that old policies are to be destroyed. Provide appropriate disclaimers in your handbooks, policy manuals and other points of dissemination for employee information. You may also want to copyright manuals and similar items to limit re-dissemination. Now is a good opportunity to evaluate your process given all the focus on rules and rule posting with the NLRB's efforts to mandate new postings and concurrent litigation.