Have an Effective Employee Handbook (continued).
Without a written policy manual, or employee handbook, or even a poorly drafted one, you are at a disadvantage to defend yourself when faced with a lawsuit based upon your policies, procedures, or accusations of discrimination or sexual harassment.
The employee handbook should provide employees and supervisors with a clear understanding of the performance and behaviors you expect of them and what they can expect of the company in return. This common understanding of goals and expectations enhances productivity and reduces the opportunity for conflict.
Without an employee handbook, you are significantly more vulnerable to a variety of wrongful termination lawsuits. Make sure that your statements of at-will employment in the handbook are consistent with other policies and statements in employment applications, employment contracts and other materials. All such materials should be reviewed during the preparation of the handbook to ensure consistency in preserving the at-will relationship.
One universal handbook may not be sufficient. Manuals for supervisory employees often are needed as they may include further information not needed for non-supervisory employees such as information of hiring policies, appropriate pre-employment inquiries, drug testing, physical examinations, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service regulations, day to day procedural matters such as vacation or leave requests or addressing on the job injuries, performance evaluations, disciplinary procedures, etc. Supervisor’s manuals should also include proper methods of response to employee complaints of discrimination, harassment in violation of company policy, and other types of employee grievances, to help ensure company policies are consistently administered and that supervisors are aware of what is expected of them.
There is no one policy or collection of policies that is appropriate in all employment settings. Policies that are appropriate for inclusion in employee handbook likewise may vary.
Critical to the defense of wrongful termination actions is to establish that employees had notice of your policies, expectations, and prohibitions. One way to do this is through the use of an Acknowledgment and Receipt of the manual form that each employee signs and returns.
Due to the extensive increase in employment litigation and the ever changing canvass of California employment law, policy manuals should be updated at the beginning of each year.
For example, for those handbooks Tamara L. Harper was updating for the past year, she is restricting the confidentiality policies that are now prohibited. An employee handbook that includes a broad confidentiality policy or restricts reasonable employee speech such as discussing bonus pay, raises or wage pay, violates both state and federal law. California law prohibits employers from publishing or enforcing policies that limit the employee’s right to discuss wages and working conditions.