A company is asking for trouble from its workers when it has no consistent policies.

QI work for a privately owned company that often cites personnel policies when making decisions, but these policies have never been given to the employees in an employee handbook, nor are they displayed anywhere for anyone to see. These "policies" change according to the situation, and the same policy can be applied differently from situation to situation, employee to employee. Is this legal? Does a company have to openly state what company policy is and forward those policies to its employees? To give you an idea of the severity of the situation, I am a manager in this company and I have never seen any of these alleged policies.

ADiane A. Seltzer, a Washington lawyer who has represented both corporations and employees, said this manager "would make a great witness for an employee who's brought a lawsuit against his company" claiming he did not know what the company wanted because there was no policy.

Nonetheless, she said, no law requires corporations to have an employee handbook spelling out policies, even though common sense would dictate just that.

"If they have a policy on the books, and the employee knew the policy, and they enforce the policies uniformly, it can almost insulate a company from losing a lawsuit" brought by a disgruntled worker, Seltzer said.

Conversely, she said, if the company has different policies on the same issue when it deals with different employees, "they really expose themselves to discrimination claims."

She said it is a "very good idea to have corporate work policies. That eliminates any unnecessary battles. If you don't have them, how are you going to know what to do? It promotes consistency and gives predictability to the workplace."

-- Kenneth Bredemeier

E-mail your workplace questions to Kenneth Bredemeier at bredemeier@washpost.com. Discuss workplace issues with him at 11 a.m. Wednesday at www.washingtonpost.com/liveonline.