Why Have a California Employee Handbook?

Custom Employee HandbookAs a business owner or manager in California, you have to ask whether your organization needs an employee handbook.  How does it help me run the business?  What kind of businesses should have an employee handbook?

1. Avoid costly policy mistakes.  Having your employee policies in writing helps the boss(es) do the right thing.  Know when overtime begins, understand how vacation time is calculated, learn the difference between exempt and non-exempt employees, and so on. Does OT start at 8 hours and/or 40 hours?  Who qualifies to be salaried?  A California employee handbook would answer all those basic policy questions.

2. Stop employee claims of ignorance.  Employees will have your policies in writing, so they can no longer claim that they did not know breaks only lasted 10 minutes or that smoking is prohibited indoors. Do all of your employees know what your rules are?  When everyone gets a copy of the “rule book” they can no longer claim ignorance.  With a California employee handbook, your policies will be clear and consistent.

3. Written Policies help to defend against lawsuits.  Getting your policies in writing can help when someone claims you were discriminatory or unfair in your labor practices.  Does an employee handbook make you immune from court cases? Of course not, but having your policies well-defined and properly distributed to all employees can sometimes be a great aid when having to defend yourself.  An employee handbook offers protection for your business.

4. Get all your supervisors on the same page.  If you have more than one manager, then it can get confusing.  One boss might contradict another.  However, when everyone has the same written policy to refer to, then the confusion is much less.  You will lower the chance of misunderstanding or frustration among staff and you will equip your supervisors with a good HR resource.

What policies are typically included in a California employee handbook?  Expect a comprehensive handbook to be about 30-40 pages in length and to include the following rules and regulations:
+ at-will employment
+ non-discrimination
+ anti-harassment
+ vacation
+ sick leave
+ overtime
+ employee classifications
+ jury duty
+ smoking
+ social media
+ introductory period
+ leaves of absence
+ bereavement
+ pay dates
+ driving while on duty
+ parking rules
+ drug testing
+ dress code
+ employee conduct
+ termination
+ holiday pay
+ customer service
+ workplace security
+ confidentiality
+ and much more

Customized Policies– In addition to standard employee policies, some services provide customized policies for your specific business or industry. You may want to consider adding custom policies covering topics such as HIPAA, driving safety, money handling, hygiene, or telecommuting.

What is not included in a typical handbook?  A typical handbook does not cover job procedures, which are too intricate and job-specific.  Other topics not covered include  job descriptions, day-to-day work procedures, and so forth.

How do I get a California employee handbook?

You have 3 basic options for designing a staff handbook:

1. Do-It-Yourself. If you are going this route, we would recommend using a lawyer-vetted template or software program, such as the excellent one provided by the California Chamber of Commerce. Pricing starts at about $250, plus all the hours you’ll need to spend completing it.


2. Get Assistance. Hire a professional consultant to help you complete a software program, costing more but saving you dozens of hours of your precious time. Consultants aren’t cheap per-hour, but they can put a handbook together much faster than you ever could, so the actual cost might end up being less than if you take the DIY path.


3. Hire a Labor Lawyer. This is the ultimate level and is recommended for those who have concern of legal issues or complex labor relations, such as a unionized shop.