Law or Policy: Which is it?

Bylaw or policy? This is a common question posed by boards of directors. The answer is usually apparent if you consider the different purposes of bylaw and policies.


Are the primary governance document of your organization and can be changed only by the board of directors. They are a snapshot of the topmost internal management of your organization. Bylaws tend to address static matters, such as membership, dues, committees, voting rights, and corporate name/address. ​Though they can be amended, bylaws are intended to remain in place for the foreseeable future.


Are flexible and take into account current regulatory, ethical, competitive, and social norms. In other words, topics and rules that can change are better suited for policies than bylaws. Examples include personnel policies, organizational charts, operational matters, safety policies, codes of conduct. Policies are the procedural and managerial functions that are usually more detailed and concern narrow, issue-specific matters.

In short, if the matter should be etched in the proverbial stone, it is probably a bylaw. If it is likely to change as business practices, technology, and laws evolve, it should probably be a policy.

About Christine Jarzab Kuntz

Cynthia Gonzalez PA Employment Law
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