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Amazon swallows Whole Foods: Time for a new employee handbook?

The Houston Chronicle last week released the news that Amazon is buying Whole Foods for the hefty sum of 13.7 billion dollars. While many have taken to social media making jokes about the cost of Whole Foods groceries--including one twitter user who wrote: I also spent 13 billion dollars at Whole Foods on 7 avocados and a red onion--for Amazon, this is the largest transaction in the history of the company.

Some might wonder: With thousands of Whole Foods employees slated to come under the Amazon corporate umbrella, is it time to re-write the employee handbook?

Why an employee handbook is essential

Every company wants to thrive and to do so, it must be clear in its goals and boundaries. Many a company has been hit with a lawsuit that might have been prevented if specific rules and expected employee behavior had been clearly outlined in a document all employees were required to read.

Employee handbooks can be as versatile and varied as the companies that write them, but certain areas of law should be spotlighted to ensure employer productivity and employee protection. Not sure what those areas are? The following is a list of topics that each company should consider:

Discrimination, including discrimination that falls under the EEOC guidelines and that doesn't. The EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) is a federal entity and its rules and regulations cover every employee anywhere in the U.S. But some states/cities have expanded rules against discrimination. Not knowing and addressing these can land a company in court.

Leaves: Anything from parental leave after a child is born, to unpaid leave to care for a family member. Make sure your employees know how, when and where they can take time off (both paid and unpaid).

Sexual Harassment: Unwanted sexual advances, innuendo, favors, etc. are not confined to people of the opposite sex. For example, they can occur between individuals of the same gender, or they can happen between opposite sexual orientations. The most important point is that they are unwanted and that they are against the law.

Overtime: The Fair Labor Standards Act regulates overtime on the federal level, again protecting all employees throughout the United States. But just as with discrimination, some local jurisdictions may have other rules. Be sure you are familiar with any that apply to you.

These are just a few of the topics that each and every employee handbook should cover. More importantly, laws can and do change often--sometimes as frequently as once a year. Updating your handbook on a regular basis is a sound and prudent business move for any savvy company. Even Amazon!

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