Employment Handbooks and Manuals in California

Many people think that employee handbooks or manuals are nothing more than a stack of pages compiled for the purpose of boring new hires during orientation. However, these documents include vital information that, depending on the content, could mean the difference between winning and losing an employment lawsuit. It is imperative that an employer be aware of what is being communicated to employees and how the wording of employee handbooks could impact the future of the company that they worked so hard to establish.

Following the law

While the law in California does not require businesses to create or distribute employee handbooks, the law does require every business to memorialize certain workplace policies in writing. More specifically, the Fair Employment and Housing Act (“FEHA”) requires that employers with at least five employees distribute written harassment, discrimination and retaliation prevention policies.

It is important that businesses do not leave themselves exposed to potential litigation by failing to outline their own policies and procedures in writing. If a company's policies are delivered orally, no concrete proof exists to show that the policies and procedures were presented to any employee and it will be a "their word against yours" scenario if a case were to proceed to trial.

Creating and distributing well-written employee handbooks can be a very effective way to reduce the risk of an employee lawsuit while helping a business run as smoothly as possible.

What should be in the handbook?

An employee handbook or manual should include all of the employee policies required by state and federal law. This includes items like Pregnancy Disability Leave and FEHA language prohibiting discrimination based on: race, religion, color, national origin, physical disability, mental disability, medical condition, genetic characteristic, age, marital status, and sex, including pregnancy and sexual orientation.

Additionally, an employee handbook could include company policies, such as:

  • A Welcome Statement
  • The Orientation Process (if the company provides an onboarding orientation experience)
  • Use of Employer-Provided Technology Policies (Computer, Cell Phone, Email, Internet, Social Media)
  • Confidentiality Policy
  • Hours of Operation (when the employees are expected to be at work)
  • Break Policy
  • Overtime Policy
  • Compensation Procedures and Policies, including Payroll, Paydays, Holiday Pay; and Vacation
  • Rules of Conduct
  • Termination Procedures

Should an employer create their own handbook?

A well-written employee handbook or manual can be helpful in avoiding litigation; however, a poorly-written document can be just as dangerous. Without a well-versed attorney crafting the document, an employer runs the risk of having their actual written words used against them. This situation happens most often when an employer copies and pastes standard handbook language found online.

Boilerplate policies may be out of date, non-compliant in California, or apply to a completely different type of company. Conversely, a skilled attorney will talk with an employer about their business and write policies that are in line with the company values while making sure they are compliant with the law in California.

Being proactive in the employee handbook process can help save time and money down the line. Contact Mohsen Parsa today for assistance in creating company policies and documentation that are California law compliant. Having hard working and skilled representation by your side will help to protect the company you worked so hard to build.

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