The law governs much of what companies have to do in relation to their employees. For instance, discrimination is prohibited on the grounds of race, age, gender and other protected statuses. These are legal requirements that employers cannot ignore.
However, companies often choose to put out their own handbooks of rules and regulations — both for the employees and the company itself. These are not laws, but the rules they present do become a sort of binding contract when included in the company handbook. The company must follow its own regulations and cannot break them on the grounds that they are not legally required.
An example: Warnings before termination
For example, most employees — other than those with contracts — need no warning before being fired. If the employer decides to let the employee go, they can simply instruct them not to come in the following day. The employee can’t sue on the grounds that they weren’t warned.
But, if the company has a handbook telling all employees from the moment that they are hired that they will be given a warning — or two — before being terminated, then the company has to adhere to that. They cannot break their own rule and fire someone without warning, and they are risking a wrongful termination lawsuit if they do.
Without a handbook or an internal rule, there would be nothing wrong with that termination, but the handbook itself changes the legal scope considerably.
Understanding complex employment laws
It’s important to understand that more than just the law impacts employee rights and employer obligations. It’s important for anyone involved in a dispute over employment matters to know what legal options they have. Working with an experienced advocate can help you understand more about the possibilities.