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.

Recent employment laws have broadly
expanded the canvas of employee rights.
Equal employment opportunity and anti-harassment protected classes now includes gender identity and gender expression; medical condition now includes cancer and genetic characteristics and information; the language for accommodation and the discussion of essential functions has changed to engaging in an interactive process. Leaves of absence have been expanded and there are new family medical leave laws. New law requires an employer to continue to maintain and pay for health coverage under a group health plan for an eligible female employee who takes Pregnancy Disability Leave (PDL), at the same level and under the same conditions as such coverage would have been provided if the employee had continued in employment continuously for the duration of the leave. Under current law, employers must provide benefits for pregnancy leave to the same extent and for the same length of time as they would for other temporary disability leaves. The new law requires group health insurance continuation coverage for all employers with five or more employees regardless of how they treat other temporary disability leaves. The coverage will extend for the length of PDL, up to four months during a 12-month period commencing on the date the leave begins.

Electronic and Social Media – Recently, there has been a great deal of activity by the National Labor Relations Board in the area of social media policies. The NLRB has filed unfair labor practice charges against employers (including non-union employers) who have disciplined employees for discussing working conditions on social media sites, such as the employees’ Facebook or Twitter account. This is an evolving area of the law.

These are just a few of the new developments in the law. Tamara L. Harper, has written a detailed review of the California Labor law changes in her articles entitled, “Checklist to Help California Employers Comply with New Labor Laws.”  This checklist can be provided to you at no cost by sending an email to Tamara L. Harper.

Staying in compliance with California labor laws is overwhelming. Tamara L. Harper understands how you all feel, as she is an employer too. Many of her clients felt the same way too before they worked with her. Ms. Harper’s clients have found as a result of working together, that they feel confident in the final outcome of their situation.

Tamara L. Harper’s unique competitive advantage is that she is very approachable as an attorney, which makes her clients feel at ease and in capable hands and further brings twenty years of litigation experience as a trial attorney to the drafting table. Tamara Harper, Esq. is an aggressive fighter that is reliable and ethical. Ms. Harper not only offers quality work, but enjoys a good location in Westlake Village, California on the border of Los Angeles and Ventura County. Tamara L. Harper prides herself on her good personal and business relationships with clients, and uses her insight and knowledge to obtain successes for each client.

Tamara L. Harper specializes in solving problems proactively without extensive and costly litigation. Ms. Harper offers you the opportunity to be proactive in creating an employment manual now, and not just reactive in defending your company against a Department of Labor or Department of Labor Standards Enforcement audit or against an employee lawsuit