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The Dangers of Drafting a “DIY” Employee Handbook for Your Silicon Valley Business

For a new business just getting off the ground, one of the most important steps is hiring new employees to help achieve your vision. The screening and hiring process is only one part of the equation, however. Once an employee is hired, onboarding begins. Drafting a well-written employee handbook to distribute to new hires is helpful to both parties for outlining expectations. It should also contain specific guidance for questions about pay periods, sick leave, and administrative procedures.

Drafting your own employee handbook with boilerplate or “fill in the blank” language is almost never a good idea. Below we discuss some of the pitfalls of drafting a do-it-yourself employee handbook, and what alternatives are available.

Complying With State and Federal Law

Drafting an employee handbook from clauses you found off the internet may not be in compliance with federal law, state law, or local law. A boilerplate form is just that, boilerplate. In California, employers must ensure that certain policies are contained in writing, specifically regarding harassment, discrimination, and retailiation procedure (how to report and how an instance is investigated). Failure to do so can result in fines, employee wage disputes, regulatory disciplinary action from the State of California or county of jurisdiction, and potential litigation.

An employee handbook should also contain language about how to report misconduct, procedure for wage and hour claims, how payroll is processed, and the benefits to which the employee is or is not entitled. An employee handbook should also contain information about family medical leave, accommodations for nursing mothers, accommodations for employees with documented disabilities, and policies regarding social media and electronic device usage. Other provisions might be necessary based on the field of work, employee contact with patients or clients or risks inherent in the workplace.

Other Provisions Necessary in an Employee Handbook

California statute also contains specific provisions about paid sick leave for employees and minimum wage requirements for hourly employees. In California, the minimum wage is $14 per hour for employers with at least 26 employees, and $13 per hour for less than 26 employees. The minimum wage increased in January of 2021. This rate will increase by a dollar at the start of 2022. An employee contract should contain the employee’s hourly rate, how often the employee is paid and language indicating that employment is at-will, unless the employee is hired under a contracted basis. An employee handbook should also include information about how to apply for paid sick leave, who is eligible, for how many days and at what rate it is paid. More information about paid sick leave and COVID-19 statutory guidelines will be discussed in a future blog post.

Contact Silicon Valley Employment Lawyers at SAC Attorneys, LLP

A do-it-yourself employee handbook might seem appealing at first glance. After all, it is cheaper. But exposing yourself and your company to unnecessary liability is extremely risky. Failure to comply with state and federal regulations can result in serious fines and penalties, up to and including litigation and the loss of your business. The better alternative is to contact experienced, competent business and employment lawyers who can help you draft a custom employment contract and handbook that is right for your business. Our lawyers at SAC Attorneys, LLP specialize in all aspects of employment law and can ensure your company is prepared for the next stage. Call today to schedule a consultation.

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