A Supreme Judicial Court decision entitling a retired employee of the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority to be compensated for unused sick time falls in line with previous rulings by the court on issues involving company handbooks and emphasizes the care that employers must take in issuing such manuals, according to practitioners.
“I think it is, in general, in keeping with the trend that if employees have relied on statements or policies written in employment manuals, the courts are more inclined to enforce them,” said Daniel S. Tarlow, an employment lawyer at Prince Lobel in Boston.
If an employer is considering using a specific set of words in its employee handbooks or personnel policies in order to avoid their legal enforceability, Tarlow said that if an employer wants to rely on disclaimer language, “it’s got to be in big neon. It’s got to be: ‘This is not a promise; do not rely on this.’ And even then, that’s no guarantee.”
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