Posted by: Professionals In Human Resources Association (PIHRA) | December 26, 2009

Essential Policies for Your 2010 Employee Handbook

It’s that time of year again . . . the air is crisp, everyone is contemplating new year’s resolution, and yes, the employee handbook needs review.  Just the thought of this sends many human resources professional into a state of panic.  You question:  “What do I have to include” and   “What should I include as a preventive measure?”  To assist you in this endeavor, here are some essential handbook policies for 2010:

Don’t be caught without a leave policy.

Both the Family Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”) and the California Family Rights Act (“CFRA”) require covered employers include a description of these leaves in any handbook.  Employers should be wary of using “forms” which only comply with the FMLA, as they are likely not California compliant.  California employers must ensure their FMLA/CFRA policy accounts for the fact the CFRA has not adopted the new FMLA regulations.  Other differences to address include the fact Pregnancy Disability Leave (“PDL”) is not considered a “serious health condition” under CFRA and California law requires domestic partners receive the same benefits mandated for spouses under state law, such as CFRA.  Finally, employers should ensure their FMLA/CFRA policy complies with Senate Bill 54, which grants same-sex couples married outside of California the same rights as married couples living in California.

Given the E.E.O.C.’s current position on leave policies with preset limits, employers should evaluate adopting an extended leave policy for employees who are not FMLA/CFRA eligible, but need a leave of absence, as a reasonable accommodation.  This policy should incorporate language providing for regular evaluations to determine whether further extension(s) of the leave will be granted.

I’m having a baby.

California’s regulations governing PDL require a description of these rights be included in any handbook.  The PDL policy should note an employee’s leave will also be designated as FMLA leave for FMLA eligible employees.

Stop harassing me.

No handbook is complete without a no-harassment policy.  This policy should be situated towards the front of the handbook and include: (1) a statement of the illegality of harassment; (2) the definition of harassment; (3) examples of harassing conduct; (4) a description of the employer’s internal complaint process; and (5) a statement prohibiting retaliation.

You’re hired, now sign this.

Although not required, all handbooks should include an at-will policy and acknowledgment of receipt for employees to sign.  Both the at-will policy and the acknowledgment should clearly state employment with your company is at-will and nothing in the handbook is meant to create an express or implied contract of employment.

•    When do I get a break?

With the continual tidal wave of wage and hour class action litigation, employers should ensure their handbooks contain policies: describing their meal and rest period procedures; setting forth their overtime practices; and defining when the workweek begins and ends – which is crucial for purposes of overtime calculations.  The meal and rest period policy should state employees must not perform any work during their meal and rest periods and must notify their supervisor immediately if they do not take an applicable meal or rest period.  An effective overtime policy includes language prohibiting unauthorized overtime.

Keep your eyes off my e-mail/text/twitter/facebook/myspace.

In today’s electronic age, employers would be remiss not to include an electronic communication policy in their handbook.  This policy should establish the company’s no-harassment policy applies to electronic communication.  Additionally, this policy should include language geared at diminishing employees’ reasonable expectations of privacy pertaining to such communication.  Employers should always consult with counsel before searching electronic information to evaluate implications on personal privacy rights.

I can’t come in today . . . I’m sick.

Any employer with employees working in the City and County of San Francisco must comply with the local ordinance mandating paid sick leave.  Thus, employers with San Francisco employees should include a sick leave policy compliant with this local ordinance.  Additionally, any California sick leave policy must take into account Labor Code section 233, which allows employee to use at least half of their yearly accumulated sick leave to attend to the illness of their spouse, child, parent, domestic partner, or child of the employee’s domestic partner.

Cynthia S. Sandoval is Of-Counsel in the Orange County Office of Jackson Lewis LLP and can be reached at (949) 885-1360 or sandovalc@jacksonlewis.com.  Founded in 1958, Jackson Lewis is dedicated to representing management exclusively in workplace law with 600 attorneys practicing in 42 cities nationwide.  To learn more, please visit us at http://www.jacksonlewis.com.

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  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Yancey Thomas and Yancey Thomas, Susan Wall. Susan Wall said: Essential Policies for Your 2010 Employee Handbook « PIHRA's Blog http://bit.ly/5o00vA […]


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