What are the options if acknowledgement isn't signed?
Question: What should an employer do if an employee refuses to sign the employee handbook acknowledgment form?
Answer: If the employer ends up in litigation, it will be important to prove that the employee was made aware of the rule in question. It matters not that the employee maybe did not like the rule. What is important is whether the employee was made aware of the rule. Was the employee provided a copy of the rule?
A refusal to sign the acknowledgment form could be considered insubordination, and you could subject the employee to discipline. Another option would be to have Human Resources indicate on the acknowledgement form that the employee was given the information but refused to sign; have a witness, in the presence of the worker, provide a signature to verify that.
Yet another option would be to have the employee sign his own refusal. This will prove that the employee was given the information and refused to sign because he understood the information.
It may be useful to ask the employee if there is a specific reason he or she is refusing to sign the acknowledgement form. That reason should be documented, as it may be helpful to you later.
Of course, it is extremely important to review the contents of your employee handbook to ensure its compliance with the law. For instance, when reviewing the policies of a client recently, I discovered provisions prohibiting employees from discussing their wages. Such a provision is unlawful under the National Labor Relations Act. The client has since amended the policy.
Note: Nothing in this SNPA Legal Hotline Q&A should be relied upon as legal advice in any particular matter.
L. Michael Zinser is the founding partner of The Zinser Law Firm in Nashville, Tenn. The firm, which has a heavy concentration of clients in communications media, represents management in the area of labor and employment. Zinser can be reached at (615) 244-9700 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
SNPA's free Legal Hotline for members – (844) 804-2016 – is designed to assist newspapers with a broad range of legal issues. Hotline attorneys and CPAs will tackle questions about circulation, independent contractors, labor and employment law, taxes, finances and accounting, employment benefits, open records, libel and privacy, and other issues newspapers encounter.
The attorneys and CPAs who will take calls from SNPA member newspapers are the best in the business: The Bussian Law Firm PLLC, Fisher & Phillips, Way, Ray, Shelton & Co., P.C. and The Zinser Law Firm.