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Is a company handbook a legal and binding document if it was created after an employee has been terminated?

Lake Mills, WI |

Law firm currently has no personnel files, formal written procedures and it is apparent that the attorney is now creating the process backward. This is an office of 3 hourly workers. There also is no mandatory signage of Employee Rights or any signage as defined by the Federal government. I anticipate that they will appear. What can I do to assure what is trying to be covered up is documented fully in real time. The terminated employee was diagnosed with cancer and by end of day he began the termination.

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Attorney answers 4


A company handbook is a guideline, usually.

It would have no application to persons that are not with the company when it becomes effective


I urge you to keep your own detailed notes and records of what is occurring after the fact. If you commence a lawsuit, all those records and documents become the subject of discovery requests. They cannot be hidden and when they were created can be determined. A company handbook can create legal rights but a former employee is not bound by a handbook created after the employee's termination. Attempting to create legal rights after the fact is something that could help the terminated employee because it may show bad faith on the part of the employer.


It sounds like you have multiple issues here. As for the employee handbook, any policy that was not communicated during an employee's employment is not likely to have much impact on whether a termination was according to a standard procedure. But policies don't have to be written to exist. Policies can be set by verbal communications and even past practices. The other issue that seems apparent is whether a termination immediately following an employee's diagnosis of a serious medical condition is legal. If the employer has 15 or more employees, then the Federal Americans with Disabilities Act may apply. If the employee worked in Wisconsin, then the Wisconsin Fair Employment Act will apply. If the employer terminated the employee because of the medical condition, whether it was a fear of the employee missing work or the cost of healthcare, then the employer has violated these laws that prohibit discrimination based on a disability. There is more to the analysis, including determining whether the employee is protected by the law under the circumstances of the job requirements and the medical condition. If this analysis applies to the situation, then I recommend that you contact an attorney licensed in Wisconsin that handles employment discrimination claims to discuss this matter. Also, you should file a Complaint of discrimination with either the Federal EEOC or the Wisconsin Equal Rights Division within 300 days of the discrimination. If you don't file within this time, some or all of your rights to pursue a claim will expire.

Nicholas C. Zales

Nicholas C. Zales


Excellent answer!


If an attorney is drafting an employee handbook, you can be certain that the handbook provisions will include language expressly allowing that the employer may change or rescind any of the provisions, or may decide not to apply the usual policies, whenever the employer determines that to be in the best interests of the company. BVirtually all employee manuals and handbooks are now written that way and have been for years. Thus, they are almost never contracts that bind the employer. Instead, they give the employer coverage when that is in the employer's best interests, and leave the employer free to improvise whenever that is preferred.

My responses to questions on Avvo are never intended as legal advice and must not be relied upon as legal advice. I give legal advice only in the course of an attorney-client relationship. Exchange of information through Avvo's Questions forum does not establish an attorney-client relationship with me. That relationship is established only by individual consultation and execution of a written agreement for legal services.

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