Is it legal to have hidden policies that only mangagement can view?

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Is it legal to have hidden policies that only mangagement can view?

We were given a handbook containing various policies that we signed off on that says they can be amended as needed. Standard stuff. However, they have policies in place that directly affect employees that only upper management can view.

Is it legal to be bound by policies that we are never informed upon? I have been basically told that in order to view these policies, I would need to sue the company. Being able to make up a policy on the fly with no proof of its existence or dissemination doesn’t seem right.

Vancouver, Washington

Asked on August 5, 2016 under Employment Labor Law, Washington

Answers:

M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

Unless this action constitutes some form of legally actionable discrimination or violated the terms of a union/collective bargaining agreement or employment contract, it was legal. The fact is that most work relationships are "at will". This means that a company can set the terms of work much as it sees fit. This includes when and for what to discipline or terminate workers or, for that matter, to reward them. In fact, an employer can suspend and or discharge an employee for any reason or no reason at all, with or without notice. So while your companies hidden policies may seem unfair, they are legal.

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

This is perfectly legal. Employment is employment at will: employers, not employees, decide the terms and conditions of employment, and can decide when to reward, when to discipline and for what, and when to terminate (or demote, suspend, etc.) employees, and employees do not have any right to be made aware in advance of the policies or expectations to which they are held. Not to put too fine a point on it, but an employee at will has essentially no rights at work, other than--
1) Not to be discriminated against or harassed due to a handful of protected characteristics, like race, national origin, sex, religion, age over 40, or disability; 
2) To not be disciplined or fired in violation of a written employment contract, IF the employee has a written employment contract (if there is a contract, the employer must honor its terms). 
Other than that, since management can change policies at will or take action against employees for *any* reason, even ones not previously considered, it is perfectly legal to have "hidden policies" that only management is aware of.


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