Employee Handbook: Your First Line of Defense

Photo by: Patrick Tomasso

Photo by: Patrick Tomasso

Many business owners, managers (other than human resources professionals), and employees view employee handbooks as pesky hindrances to flexibility and growth.  The contrary is true, and knowing when and how to use your handbook could save your business from hours of lost productivity, low morale, and expensive lawsuits.
Solutions to 3 Common Issues Await in Your Handbook 

1.  Time Off/Leave Requests

Your employee handbook could guide you through the following analysis:
  • Does the employee have a right to time off?
You are likely familiar with common requests for leave due to illness,pregnancy, disability, and jury duty.  However, you may not be aware of lesser-known leaves such as those for victims of domestic violenceor for alcohol rehabilitation.  Thus, when the leave request is uncommon, check your employee handbook to confirm whether the employee is entitled to time off.
  • Whether and what type of documentation must the employee provide?
  • Is the time off paid or unpaid?
  • Does the request for time off trigger your duty to accommodate?
Although you will face unique situations that require guidance from counsel, your handbook should guide you through the majority of leave requests.

2.  Employee Complaints (e.g. Harassment and Discrimination)

As a business owner or manager, you are constantly called upon to resolve conflict.  Sometimes the conflict is merely the result of differences in personality, communication, or work styles.  However, when a complaint relates to conduct that constitutes harassment or discrimination, failure to properly respond to such as complaint could open the doors to a lawsuit.
Your handbook could help you determine:
  • Whether the conduct complained of is harassment or discrimination.
  • What you should do now that you received a complaint (e.g., investigation procedure, keeping confidences, and reporting results).
  • Whether an employee violated company policy, whether the conduct warrants discipline, and how to go about disciplining the employee.

3.  Discipline

Failure to follow the disciplinary procedure outlined in the handbook is a common claim made by lawyers who represent employees and could lead to discrimination claims as well.

So when you determine that an employee’s conduct is detrimental to the work environment or productivity, look at your handbook to guide you on:
  • Whether the conduct warrants discipline.
  • What disciplinary procedures have you communicated to your employees?
  • If you decide to terminate, your duties at the time of termination.  (Failure to properly fail to pay final wages is a common claim filed with the Labor Commissioner.)
Employee handbooks are powerful tools that many people file away and forget about.  When used correctly, they play an integral role in improving employee relationships and productivity, and protecting you and your business.
Contact me at (949) 529-0007 if you are looking for an California lawyer with an emphasis on California employment law to help you navigate issues to prevent employment disputes.

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In: Employment Law

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