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Some businesses post all their policies electronically in one form or another. It doesn't take much. Even the president -- of the United States -- can tweet policy. But is that always a good idea?
Even if the law doesn't require it, there may be good reasons for that. It's up to general counsel to figure it out. Here are some considerations:
If your company is internet-based, what else are you going to do? Offer the employee handbook in print format? Maybe....
After all, internet businesses also have at least one physical location -- where the computers are -- and being in the cloud doesn't mean defying the laws of gravity or any government agency. The U.S. Department of Labor, for example, says employers must post minimum wage and other laws in "conspicuous places easily visible to all employees." Certain posters should be visible to job applicants, too. It depends on the size of the employer and other factors, but the print requirement seems certain. According to the Labor Law Center, it is not enough to display mandated posters electronically. An employer may do it, but the posters must also be placed in a physical location. The Department of Labor is looking at the possibility of electronic-only posting, but apparently it's not the law -- yet.
Other than the mandated documents, electronic distribution of employee policies may be reasonable for the same reasons electronic publishing exists. It's easy and inexpensive, and almost everybody is on the internet anyway.
However, employee handbooks and company policies are in a different category. Human resource managers agree they are a good idea, but not something to share with everybody -- just employees. Usually, it's not a good idea to publish internal policies electronically. An internal network is one step away from the world wide web, and a once-confidential document can quickly become a liability for a company. In an era when employees also prize privacy, it's just not worth it.
That's why it is important to have a policy on email and internet usage. The American Bar Association offers a sample. Online of course.
Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.