How long until Policy applies

I'd like to know if anyone knows or has a resource to answer the following across all 50 states. However I'll take any specific info I can get.

When do HR Policies apply, whether the employee signs or not, once given out.
IE- Bill the employee gets a new handbook, it's got ADRP section added. Bill doesn't want to sign anything w/o reading it first. 30 days, later Bill still hasn't signed acknowledgment. We know that "by continuing to work" an employee is subject to policies they have been given.

Can anyone help me gt more specific and state specific would be even better.



  • 8 Comments sorted by Votes Date Added
  • Just my thoughts here :

    It can be immediately if you have the documentation that can prove the employee received the information.   However some employers like to make it effective a little later to give employees an adjustment period (Depending on the policy change).    California honestly would be the state that I would look at the most since they are the most employee-friendly state in the country.

    ....I usually have the employee initial a list that they received the document (regardless of whether they read it or not) for a written policy change.  Then they have another acknowledgement for the whole employee handbook itself that states they have read and understood it.  Personally I would discipline/writeup the employee who has not returned the acknowledgement or place him on leave/suspension until he gets it done.  Bet he gets it back to you within a few hours!

    Employers pretty much have the ability in the 49 "at will" states to change policy as long as they have reserved that right in their written documents and are not covered under a collective bargaining agreement (CBA in unions) and still follow applicable federal and state laws.  I suspect even in the one not "at will" state, the employer still could change policy pretty immediately as long as it didn't affect the immediate termination of an employee for a brand new policy.

    That said, if an employee quits due to a changed employer policy, they might depending on the change have an argument for good cause to get unemployment benefits, especially if there was no adjustment period.  For example, the employer used to allow work from home and the employee lives 50 miles from the office. The employer changes it's policy and requires all employees to be in the office 5 days a week.

    And here are the thoughts of the Texas Workforce Commission:

    "Basic Legal Issues

    1. Policies are generally up to the employer to define and enforce. The employment at will doctrine in Texas gives employers the right to set policies and change them at will depending upon the needs of the business. The few exceptions are so well-established that most employers do not even consider them to be policy areas:

    • pay (minimum wage and overtime restrictions);

    • no illegally discriminatory hiring, personnel, or termination practices;

    • safety (OSHA and Texas workers' compensation regulations); and

    • other areas, such as how benefit plans are communicated, modified, and administered (ERISA and COBRA).

    1. Policies can be oral or written or a combination of both, but ideally, all important policies should be in writing.

    2. Employers can generally change policies at a moment's notice.

    3. In Texas, policies are not regarded as binding employment contracts." 


  • HR policies are in effect from the moment they are written and certainly from the moment an employee receives them.  I have never seen anything specific about this, but it has been standard business practice at every Fortune 100 company in which I have worked.
  • Technically, you can enforce your policy whether the person signs or not.  Dealing with the aftermath of them claiming they didn't know is a pain, so there are better ways to handle it.  Read on.

    You can enforce your policy even if you don't notify people. Unfortunately, that could end up resulting in the appearance of discrimination, depending on who is affected by the policy change.  You can also expect increased unemployment insurance bills if there's a flood of terminations due to the secret policy.

    The best way to handle this is to have a meeting with a witness and inform this person of the policy, inform them that it applies to them whether they sign or not, and ask them if they have any questions and answer any that they may have.  Then have the witness sign off that the other employee refused to sign the document but was duly notified of the policy and that it pertained to them and that his or her questions were answered.

    In some places, you can tell them they must sign the acknowledgement under penalty of insubordination for failure to do so because they are merely signing acknowledgement of the policy.  In other places, that's too aggressive and you would have to talk to your own attorney to get the answer to that one.

  • I would
    agree with the above.

    At my
    company, a signature is required on our handbook within first three days of
    employment.  We then keep our policies on
    our Intranet, which list a creation & revision date on each.  When there are updates to one or multiple policies,
    an email blast is sent out.  We try to keep
    updates to a single day, to avoid multiple announcements.

  • Thank you all for the input!

    Very much appreciated and confirms what we thought we knew.


  • I have a question slightly off this subject, regarding policies.... we are getting ready to put in a policy re: internal job postings.  But I have a Mgr. who has been promising to make a decision about a Sales Mgr. position.  The problem is only one salesperson has really taken the time to make it known he is interested, even to the point of making suggestions to the other salesmen.  The problem is compounded by the fact that the others have been led to believe this position would not be filled for awhile. And the person making suggestions is the newest to the staff--even having left us and then been hired back.   To my knowledge, no one was told, "If you are interested, see me".  And it has not been posted.  (I see a morale problem brewing here).

    So the question is, if it is not posted, are some of the other salesmen able to file a complaint or grievance if they do not know the position would be filled this quickly?  Would it be better to post it, even if the decision is already made (in the regional mgr's mind)?


  • The manager must do what he or she is directed to do by his or her superior to avoid a claim of insubordination.  One way to get this handled while you are waiting to implement the policy is to go over his or her head, get buy in, and fix the problem.


    Anybody can complain about anything.  Whether or not it goes anywhere is another matter.  Are your salespeople unionized?  I'm curious about the use of the word "grievance".

  • I have probably misused the work grievance, and no, our salesmen are not unionized.  The regional mgr. was not directed to fill the post by any time deadline, which made me believe that he should have given one more, "Is anybody interested?" before he announced the selection. 

    My feelings may be because I feel I am the most concerned person in my company about morale.

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