While it might be surprising to some employers, California does not require them to provide workers with an employee handbook. However, businesses with five or more employees must distribute written policies prohibiting discrimination, harassment and retaliation against whistleblowers.
In most cases, detailed and customized employee handbooks are a company’s first line of defense against a lawsuit. They should not be boilerplate documents. Rather, the outlined policies and practices must reflect the company’s size, culture and workers’ needs.
Required policies to include in an employee handbook
Companies risk exposing themselves to lawsuits when they fail to communicate their procedures and policies to employees. These practices should always be in writing and not delivered verbally. When drafting a handbook, it must include specific federal, state and local policies. Here are some of the items that must be outlined:
- Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA)
- Sexual harassment policy
- Anti-discrimination and equal employment policy
- Jury duty leave
- Military service leave
- Meal and rest breaks
- California Family Rights Act (CFRA)
- Paid time off and sick leave
- Pregnancy leave
- Health and safety policy
Several other policies must be included, and many depend upon the number of workers the company employs. Also, several California cities require employers to include specific provisions.
Optional policies to consider
Dozens of other options are available and recommended depending on the business. Some of these policies are for:
- Overtime pay
- Employee benefits
- Pay policies for hourly and salaried employees
- Social media use
While some benefits are not mandatory, most bring legal requirements if you offer them. Written policies protect you from misunderstandings and, most importantly, lawsuits.
Knowledgeable guidance and frequent reviews are necessary
Once you have an employee handbook in place, it’s not time to put it away and forget about it. Frequent changes occur in federal and California employment laws. Annual reviews are essential to ensure that you comply with all relevant requirements.
It is crucial to have experienced legal guidance in crafting handbooks, especially for small and midsized businesses without the ability to hire human resources personnel. But it’s also advisable for companies with HR departments to have their policies and practices consistently reviewed by an experienced employment attorney.