In most states, your company handbook isn’t a contract. They don’t have to follow their own procedures. However, some employers are starting to make employees sign them and add things like an agreement to arbitrate all claims against the employer or a waiver of jury trial.
You will want to read your handbook and understand your rights and responsibilities. Sections you’ll want to pay extra careful attention to are:
Discrimination policy: Where do you report discrimination? Who do you report it to if your supervisor is the discriminating person? If you’re a federal employee, your deadlines are extremely short, so be aware. Know your policies before you need them.
Harassment policy: Ignore that they’ll say to report all harassment. But do report harassment based on race, age, sex, national origin, disability, genetic information, religion, color, whistleblowing, making a worker’s comp claim, or taking Family and Medical Leave. Follow the published policy to the letter (except if it says to report verbally, make sure you also report in writing).
Sick leave/personal leave: Understand who you have to call and how far in advance. Don’t give them an excuse to fire you.
Family and Medical Leave: The employer has to publish the process you must follow to take FMLA leave. Make sure you follow all the steps and get them whatever medical certifications you need to provide.
a. Knowing your handbook makes sense. These are the employer’s rules and you have to follow them.
b. Make sure you keep your copy of the handbook. If the employer wants you to sign saying you’ve received it but they won’t let you keep it, sign, then write, “saw briefly, not allowed to keep a copy.”
c. Pay attention to those updates that the employer sends around in memo form.
d. If it’s a contract for one party, it’s a contract for both. Be careful what you sign. If your company wants you to sign away your rights, have a lawyer take a look, or make sure you understand what you’re agreeing to.
e. If the company fails to follow its own policies, that might be evidence of discrimination or retaliation if they follow the policies for other employees.
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