Like many states, California is considered an at-will employment state. This means that absent a specific contract of employment, an employer is free to terminate an employee for any reason or no reason at all. Despite this, many employers believe it is a good idea to have written policies on hiring and firing as well as other employee matters to avoid disputes where possible and maintain workplace stability. To that end, a well-written and comprehensive employee manual can serve to establish the standards of the particular company and serve as notice as to what is expected of the employees.
Among the most important provisions to place in an employee manual are policies and guidelines that involve federal and state law regarding workplace discrimination. Discrimination and harassment need not necessarily be either intentional or overt, but the company can make it quite clear what its policies are and what it will not tolerate under any conditions. Employer and employee experts suggest including further information regarding other government requirements such as family leave programs or workers’ compensation where appropriate.
Other sections of an employee manual should be tailored to the individual policies and procedures for the specific company. Issues such as compensation, benefits, dress code, use of personal devices during company time and others should be documented. While it is not necessary, practical or desirable to address every conceivable issue that may arise, it is prudent to convey the main standards in as clear and concise language as possible. Ambiguity can create loopholes and inconsistent interpretation and behavior from employees.
As seen on this California employer/labor blog, it is best for a company to focus on its business and avoid unnecessary conflicts and potential litigation with its employees. An experienced labor law attorney may review company operations and offer guidance on how to potentially avoid workplace disruptions.