Q. Do I need a Blogging Policy in my Company's Employee Handbook?

A. Most employers recognize the importance of including a detailed Computer, Email and Internet Usage Policy in their Employee Handbook. This critical policy typically states a company's position on employee computer, email and internet use during work hours and it generally stipulates specific restrictions on this use. For example, it is common to include a statement strictly prohibiting the downloading or transmitting of sexually explicit or otherwise harassing material while at work or on company time.

In today's world, employers need to consider the inclusion of a Blogging Policy in their Employee Handbook. Blogging on the Internet is the latest trend for individuals who want to express their personal opinions in a manner that is accessible to the entire world. This can cause significant ramifications for a company if an employee decides to include in his or her blog information that creates a conflict of interest, trade secrets or other confidential information. Companies should create a formal policy statement restricting employees from disclosing any company information in a personal blog without express permission. While a company cannot prohibit anyone from expressing personal opinions; it can require an employee to add a disclaimer to his or her blog stating that the opinion is his or her own and that it is not endorsed by the company.

Q.  If an employee resigns employment and does not return company property, can I deduct the value of the company property from his last paycheck?

A. No. It is unlawful in Massachusetts to deduct the value of company property from an employee's pay check, unless he or she signed a release authorizing the company to do so. This also applies to outstanding company loans. If the company loans money to an employee, it may not deduct the balance of any outstanding loan from the employee's final paycheck, unless the loan agreement specifically authorizes the company to do so.

Q.  Am I legally required to provide my employees with annual written performance appraisals?

A. No. It is not a legal requirement to provide employees with annual performance appraisals. However, it does make good management sense to do so. You will want to be sure that your review form covers only job-related criterion and that you apply the same standards to individuals in the same position. Once you complete a written performance appraisal, it does become part of any employee's official personnel file.