A California Employee Handbook is Critical to Protect Your Business

Within the last decade, California has seen a dramatic rise in employment litigation. Lawsuits brought by employees are a huge burden on the employer and drain valuable resources. While employers are not required by law to have a California employee handbook, it is critical for every business owner to have one. This is particularly true in California, which has the strictest labor laws in the nation. The U.S. Supreme court has held that employers can better protect themselves from employee lawsuits by putting into place a professional California Employee Handbook.

In the past, the employee handbook became something of a tool for an employee during litigation.  However, a well drafted California employee handbook can be used to protect the company by spelling out the “at-will” employment relationship and define employee rights and responsibilities which often become the subject matter of lawsuits. By using clear language within the handbook the employer can protect themselves from the handbook being used against them in court.

“At-Will” Employment Policy

The most important reason for you as an employer to put in place an employee handbook is to protect your business from potential lawsuits with your employees.  It is an opportunity to strengthen and clarify your position as an “at-will” employer, for instance. “At-will” employment means that either the employer or employee can terminate the employment relationship at any time. It is presumed under California law that all employment is “at-will.”

There are however, some exceptions to this rule, such as the “implied contract”.  Under this exception if an employee has worked for you for a number of years, and has been promoted and received raises, they can claim after being terminated there was an “implied contract” and that they could only be terminated for cause.  Having the employee sign an acknowledgement of receipt for their employee handbook will usually take care of this issue assuming it is clearly written in the handbook the employee is an at-will employee.

The more precautions you take to maintain your right to terminate employees “at-will’ the better-off you will be in terms of future lawsuits by disgruntled employees. It is vital for the employer to mention this at every opportunity to prevent an opening for misinterpretation and misunderstanding by the employee. Of course a California employee handbook is perfect for this.

Sexual Harassment and Discrimination

The use of a handbook establishes consistency and uniformity throughout the company.  It is also a great way to inform your employees of necessary employment rules and regulations. By law in California, employers are required to provide employees written information on harassment, including the legal definition, the remedies available to the victim and the consequences to the perpetrator.  The handbook is a perfect place to set out this information. A signed acknowledgement of receipt from each employee serves as proof that you have provided your employees with the required information.

Key to Managing Employees

Putting all of your policies in writing is important not only for protecting your company, but managing your employees.  With an attorney drafted employee handbook, employees will be clear on exactly what the company’s expectations are. If you are ever brought to court on an employee matter, one of the first questions you will be asked is what your written policy is on the issue, and was it made clear to the employee.

A well written California employee handbook is not only your first line of defense against employee lawsuits, but also a valuable tool to manage your employees.

Click Here to see our attorney-drafted California employee handbook