Employees occasionally sue Texas employers for breach of contract claiming the employer violated its handbook policies in taking some action against the employee. Texas law precludes most breach of contract claims premised on violations of an employee handbook where the handbook contains a provision expressly disclaiming any intent to create binding or contractual rights –whether express or implied.
John Hyman at the Ohio Employer’s Law Blog recently wrote a post explaining the importance of handbook disclaimers. (See post here). While John is an Ohio practitioner, the seven vital elements he explains should be included in a comprehensive handbook disclaimer apply equally to Texas employers. John’s seven vital elements include:
- A specific statement that employment is at-will, without exception.
- An explanation, in plain English, of what at-will employment means.
- A statement that no one can create a contract contradictory to the provisions of the handbook.
- A statement that the handbook is merely a unilateral statement of rules and policies which creates no rights or obligations.
- A statement that the handbook is not a contract and not intended to create an express or implied contract.
- A statement that the employer has the unilateral right to amend, revise, or eliminate policies and procedures as needed.
- A statement that employees should not rely on any statement in the handbook as binding on the company.
One word of caution. If the handbook contains some provisions where the employer does intend to create binding, enforceable contractual rights, such as an arbitration provision or waiver of right to jury trial, those provisions should be specifically carved out of the disclaimer. Including an effective handbook disclaimer can provide a powerful defense to any breach of contract claim based on handbook provisions.