Unfortunately, it is common for new hires and existing employees to put employee handbooks aside with little consideration. Nevertheless, comprehensive employee handbooks are an important tool employers can use to minimize their liability exposure and position themselves to defend against allegations of workplace discrimination.
A well-crafted employee handbook provides concrete evidence of your policies regarding numerous issues:
Performance review processes
Harassment reporting procedures
Policies on discrimination and harassment
Policies mandated by state or federal law
Putting these policies and processes in writing and distributing them to employees can provide a defense against allegations of arbitrary or discriminatory conduct toward employees down the road. Providing clear procedures for reporting harassment in the workplace can also help mitigate employer liability for harassment perpetrated by other employees. These are just some of the reasons why various organizations, including the California Chamber of Commerce, enthusiastically recommend employers take the time to compile and distribute such a document.
Despite all these benefits, however, employers must still be careful. If it is carelessly compiled, an employee handbook can actually increase liability risks and can also create compliance issues. Furthermore, employers who create handbooks but fail to adhere to the policies within are likely to realize little benefit from them during litigation. As such, it is advisable to consult with an experienced California employment law firm when compiling a new employee handbook or editing an existing one. Likewise, you should make your company’s written policies available to your defense team as soon as you become involved in any type of employment litigation.