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The Three “H”s of Fall: Halloween, Hot Chocolate, and Handbooks

October 12 2015

By: The Labor and Employment Group

When people begin to think about cool weather, hot chocolate, Thanksgiving, and this year the constant announcements about El Niño, only one thing always comes to my mind……..

Employer Handbook Season! 

Yes, the end of the year always brings a flurry of revisions to employer handbooks.  This year is no different.  Business owners, general counsel, and human resources professionals throughout California and the County always look at Q4 and ask themselves “when was the last time your employee handbook was updated?”  We are assisting many clients right now with their handbooks so that they are poised for a January 1 launch. With the constant changes in California (including the dozens of new bills just signed by the Governor), employer handbooks that are more than a year old can quickly become a huge liability.

When creating or revising handbooks, employers must remember that the employee handbook is the announcement of the Companies policies.  This is the first step toward legal compliance with the myriad of California’s (sometimes ridiculously generous) employment laws.  If your handbook contains the wrong language, contains outdated content, or if you don’t enforce your policies consistently, the employer will often find themselves on the wrong side of employment-related lawsuits.

Ultimately a yearly examination will help employers prepare for incorporating changes in law into their workplace, ensure their policies are providing a structure for the administration of like leaves/vacations/sick time, and revising policies that are either obsolete or are not enforced uniformly.

Areas to Scrutinize

Every year brings a torrent of new laws, regulations, and rulings here in California.  Employers should carefully scrutinize certain areas within your handbooks to make sure you are compliant.  The top areas of impact to focus on in reviewing your employee handbook for 2016 are:

  • E-mail, Social Media and Technology Use policies
  • Wage & Hour rules and policies
  • Equal Employment Opportunity rules and policies
  • Policies to help remain union free
  • Vacation and Sick leave policies
  • Leave laws and policies

Additional Areas to Include

In addition to the areas, you want to ensure some of the basics of a solid employer handbook are also included and up to date.  Some of those items include:

  • At-Will Statement
  • Anti-Harassment and Discrimination policy
  • Disclaimer (not a contract policy)
  • Attendance
  • Drug and Alcohol Abuse policy
  • Workplace Violation policy
  • Disciplinary Policy and Procedure

Ultimately your handbook must be created with your Company in mind.  Meeting legal requirements are a must for any handbook.  However, you should then examine how those policies will work operationally.  Operationally, the wording of the policies or the inclusion of policies may be vastly different for local, regional and national businesses.

Then What???

Once created, the work is not done.  Employers must consider how to deliver the new handbook to its employees, how to obtain acknowledgements that the handbook was received, and whether to have any meetings describing new or updated policies.  The beginning of the New Year is a great time to launch new handbooks, arbitration agreements and other workplace policies.

We feel strongly every business should have access to high quality policies and handbooks.  Whether you need a new handbook from scratch or you need your revisions reviewed for legal compliance we will work with you to make the process easy, fast, and cost effective.  Please call your favorite Weintraub Labor & Employment attorney for help.  We want to help.