Issues often neglected in employee manuals - DVM
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Issues often neglected in employee manuals
Be sure your handbook addresses them to protect yourself, practice against litigation


Keep in mind that, with continuing expansion of employee rights under statutory law and judicial interpretations, this employee-manual language may or may not actually be effective in limiting employees' "expectation of privacy" rights. But it may work in some states and, if nothing else, can go a long way to discourage workers from bringing things to work that you really don't want there: booze, tasteless pictures, expensive jewelry, street drugs, whatever.

And, if your local legal counsel advises you that the language is effective in your jurisdiction, such manual provisions can make it a lot easier to prove employee theft if you suspect it.

Using communication devices

There is a rapidly expanding body of law regarding employees' personal use of computers, faxes, copiers and other communications technology.

It is not all that unusual for workers to abuse their right of access to the employer's computer equipment to receive pornographic material, make wagers, issue threats, engage in libel, violate copyrights, hack other computers and so on. If you believe that your practice and its owners could never be drawn into potential liability for such activity, you are mistaken.

Your practice manual should state specifically what, if any, personal use may be made of practice communications equipment. It needs to describe what disciplinary action may be taken in the instance of a violation. Finally, it should state that all workplace-gener- ated employee e-mail is subject to review and examination.

Then, once the employee signs your manual (indicating that he or she has read and understands what it contains), you have helped protect yourself.

The signed manual is a nice piece of added defense against being drawn into a lawsuit by some computer-hacking or identity-theft victim. It also helps protect you against a legal claim by one of your workers when the police come to your facility and you give them access to that worker's e-mail or other computer files without the worker's permission.

Dr. Allen is president of the Associates in Veterinary Law P.C., which provides legal and consulting services to veterinarians. Call (607) 754-1510 or visit


Source: DVM360 MAGAZINE,
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