Even though there is no law specifically stating that employers must have an employee handbook, it is strongly recommended by Bellatrix PC’s business defense attorneys. Without a written handbook delineating your company’s employee policies, ambiguity and confusion can easily give rise to contentious, expensive, and time-consuming litigation in court. By utilizing a clear and comprehensive handbook of employment policies, employers and business owners greatly increase their ability to protect their entities against destructive lawsuits and discrimination claims.
However, while the implementation of unambiguous employee policies is critical for entities of all structures and natures, crafting a robust and enforceable handbook can be a deceptively challenging task. Without professional guidance from an experienced attorney, you risk leaving your company exposed to avoidable legal issues. The business lawyers of Bellatrix PC have extensive experience reviewing and drafting a wide variety of workplace and employee policies, and work with entities ranging from small start-ups to firmly-established corporations.
To schedule a private legal consultation, call the law offices of Bellatrix PC right away at (800) 449-8992.
What is the Purpose of Employment Policies?
An employee handbook defines the rights and responsibilities of both the employer and employee. It serves as a place to publish mandatory notices for your employees, as there are dozens of laws requiring written notices to employees despite the general lack of laws requiring handbooks. A handbook also outlines all of your policies regarding employee complaints and disputes, and can dramatically reduce your company’s chances of becoming involved in costly discrimination claims alleging racial discrimination, religious discrimination, sex discrimination, or other discriminatory business practices.
A thoughtful and well-crafted handbook can save your business valuable time and money by providing clear, straight-forward procedures, and may also provide additional benefits including:
- Orienting new hires to the company culture and policies.
- Defining what is expected from employees.
- Answering common questions, thereby freeing your staff to handle more pressing matters.
- Lower you business’ risk of litigation and thus, potentially, its insurance premiums.
- Serving as a go-to reference for effective resolution of disputes.
When drafting your handbook, it is very important to have an attorney review the document to make sure your business is in compliance with current state and federal employment laws. Remember, while the ideal handbook helps provide clarity and harmony, an out-of-date or unclear handbook can actually make an employment dispute worse.
What Should an Employee Handbook Include?
Employee handbooks must consider their audience: the employees! A policy handbook should therefore avoid “legalese,” and should be drafted in language that can easily be read and understood by every employee on staff. When drafting a policy handbook you should, at bare minimum, include the following ten sections:
- Handbook Introduction — Gives an explanation of the business, outlines the purpose of the workplace handbook, and defines “at-will” employment.
- EEO Policies (Discrimination & Harassment) — States that the business does not discriminate or tolerate harassment based on race, sex, color, religion, national origin, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, physical or mental disabilities.
- Pre-Employment Matters — Explains immigration compliance policies, and any other pre-employment matters including non-disclosure agreements, arbitration agreements, skills tests, personality tests, background checks, and employment verification.
- Employment Classification — Defines the various classifications of “employees” for benefits listed later in the employee handbook, including “full-time,” “part-time,” “temporary,” “exempt,” and “non-exempt.”
- Work Hours & Payroll Practices — Lists hours of operation, pay dates, payroll deductions, overtime policies, meal and rest periods, time card requirements, and related matters.
- Benefits — Details who is eligible, and when he/she is eligible, for personal time off (PTO) or vacation policies, including vacation days, holidays, paid or unpaid sick time, and personal time. You may include any other company benefits, if any, including health benefits, gym membership reimbursement, on-site childcare, flexible spending accounts, and related matters.
- Leaves of Absence — Lists all federal and California non-medical (jury duty, military duty, voting, etc.) and medical (Family Medical Leave Act, childbirth, disability, etc.) types of leaves of absence which are available to employees, and how to submit the relevant requests and paperwork.
- Standards of Performance, Expectations, Discipline — Lists examples of unacceptable behavior (policies including: drug/alcohol use, personal email use, security, acceptable work attire, etc.) and outlines the discipline process.
- Termination and Post-Employment Matters — Explains policies regarding resignations, terminations, layoffs, reduction in workforce, separation, severance policies, and related matters.
- Acknowledgment Form — Requests that the employee sign the acknowledgement form that:
- He or she has received the handbook.
- He or she has read or will read and adhere to all policies.
- He or she recognizes that the business can change, amend, add, or eliminate policies in the handbook without prior notice.
- Both parties agree to at-will employment.
- At-will employment cannot be modified without written consent and documentation signed by both parties.
Contact Our Employment Law Attorneys
Once your business has created a handbook, it is critical to update it whenever any state or federal laws change, your policies change, your company evolves, or a new section needs to be added. Upon completion of the change, and after attorney approval, all employees should be required to submit a new acknowledgment form, stating they are aware of the changes, amendments, additions, and/or deletions. This form should also state that this acknowledgment form supersedes any old acknowledgment forms.
If your business needs assistance drafting or reviewing a policy handbook, Bellatrix PC can help. Our employment law lawyers are accomplished in protecting and defending Riverside and San Diego businesses against employment lawsuits and helping them to draft sound policies that will keep them in legal compliance and lower their exposure to legal liability.
To learn more about how we can help your company meet its goals in a confidential consultation, call the attorneys of Bellatrix PC at (800) 449-8992 today. Ask about our Employer Protection Package.