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Recommended Reading: Don’t Let HR Issues Turn into Legal Issues

Create employee handbook to cover yourself as much as possible.

Although distributors are focused more on growing their businesses than developing workplace policies and procedures, much less enforcing them, keeping HR issues from becoming legal issues is critical for company survival, according to Nancye Combs, in How to Navigate Key HR Issues in 2017.

Her advice: Make 2017 the year you create – or update – an employee handbook, because “if you don’t have written policies and procedures in place, you cannot control your workforce,” says Combs, president and CEO of HR Enterprise, a human resources consulting firm in Louisville, KY.

An employee handbook won't completely protect you from legal problems, but having written policies and procedures that each employee must read and sign will go a long way should a workplace complaint escalate.

“Policies on discrimination, bullying, workplace violence, at-will employment, confidentiality, substance abuse, social media, technology, are critical policies you have to have in place,” Combs says. “It may not totally keep you from staying awake all night, but it helps you to say, ‘At least I got us covered as much as I can.’”

One area where distributors can become especially vulnerable is noncompete clauses, or restrictive covenants. Companies should be vigilant in 2017 with keeping their “trade secret house in order,” according to Mike Greco, regional managing partner in the Denver, CO, office of Fisher & Phillips.

This might not need to go as far as a noncompete, Greco says. "The trend that we’re seeing across the country is that we don’t always need a noncompete when a lesser restraint will do." Those lesser restraints may include nondisclosure agreements or applying trade secret protections that are already in place.

Read more about employee handbooks, noncompetes and other HR issues to be mindful of this year in How to Navigate Key HR Issues in 2017.

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