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Four Mistakes to Avoid in Your Employee Handbook

Every San Diego business with employees needs to have an employee handbook. An experienced San Diego corporate attorney can help draft the contents of your employee handbook and can offer advice and counsel with respect to what should be included and what mistakes to avoid. Here are the top four mistakes to avoid when creating your company’s employee handbook.

Make Sure Your Employees Read Your Handbook

There are several “audiences” for an employee handbook including these three important categories:

  • Newly hired employees receiving the handbook for the first time
  • Current employees receiving a newly updated handbook
  • Judge, lawyers, and jurors if there is employment-related litigation

You want your employees to read the handbook. This is relevant to potential litigation because you want to be able to show to a judge and/or jurors that your employees read your handbook. If there is a lawsuit and your legal opponent can show that none of your employees never read the handbook, that will potentially hinder your chances of victory in the lawsuit. A signature page where employees confirm that they read and understood the handbook is important.

Avoid Any Suggestion or Implication That Your Handbook is a Contract

Your company’s employee handbook is not a contract with your employees. Rather, it is a mechanism for notifying your employees of various requirements, policies, and procedures. In other words, the handbook is a notice, not an agreement. Thus, do not use language in the handbook suggesting the handbook is a contract. In this respect, avoid words like “agreement” and “breach” and avoid any sort of signature line for the employee in your handbook. If it is important to have an acknowledgment of receipt, then have the employees sign a separate sheet of paper stating only that their signature signifies that they received the handbook.

Studiously Avoid Including Stand-Alone Policies

Under California law, some notices to employees must be provided as stand-alone documents. See our discussion here. It is important to be careful to avoid accidentally including something in your handbook that is required by law to be a separate, stand-alone document.

Avoid Lengthy Discussions of Matters Subject to Separate Documentation and/or Contracts

Along the same lines — and as a method of keeping your handbook short — do not include lengthy discussions of matters that are the subject of separate documentation, training, and/or contracts. As an example, your company should have separate and free-standing employee contracts with respect to confidentiality and nondisclosure of company data and trade secrets. It is important to mention these in the handbook, but only briefly. In addition to keeping the handbook short, a brief mention in the handbook avoids any legal argument that the handbook is part of the confidentiality and nondisclosure agreement or that the handbook has new or different contractual terms.

Call San Diego Corporate Law Today

For more information, contact attorney Michael Leonard, Esq., of San Diego Corporate Law. Contact Mr. Leonard by calling (858) 483-9200 or via email. Mr. Leonard focuses his practice on business law, transactional, and corporate matters, and he proudly provides legal services to business owners in San Diego and the surrounding communities. Like us on Facebook.

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