Is There a Dangerous Word in Your Handbook?

Do you have the word “permanent” in your employee handbook?  As in “permanent employee”?

If so, take it out as fast as you can.

Unless, of course, you truly want to promise your employees permanent employment.

The idea of a permanent employee is a holdover from a bygone era when employers could hire and fire at will – and employees never dreamed of suing for wrongful discharge.  Those days are gone.  Today courts and juries think of permanent employees as employees who can be terminated only for cause.

Often the word was used in handbooks to identify those employees entitled to certain benefits. (Example: “Permanent employees are entitled to participate in the company’s health insurance plan.”)

If your handbook has such language, take out “permanent” and substitute a qualifying description that does not bind you to offer employment forever. (Example: “Employees who complete four consecutive weeks of satisfactory employment are entitled to participate in the company’s health insurance plan.”)

Many handbooks also identify employees as “regular” full-time employees.  The word “regular” to define an employee is meaningless.  Delete it.  Simply define a full-time employee as one “who is regularly scheduled to work X hours per week.”

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