Employment Contracts and Employee Handbooks
Two of the most important employee-related documents are the employment contract and the employee handbook. The employment contract establishes the relationship between you as a San Diego employer and the employee or independent contractor who will work on your behalf. The employment contract can be in either oral or written form and both are legally enforceable. However, the “Lawyer for Employers” team strongly suggest that your offer letter and employment contract should be carefully crafted written documents.
The offer letter provides legal context for the hire, and is an important supporting document. The terms in the offer letter should are an extract of and mirror the terms of the employment contract. It is important to offer a clear description of the job title and work to be performed, as well as the salary or hourly wage associated with the position, and any additional compensation such as commissions, bonus, and benefits.
The employment contract itself should describe in much greater detail the relationship between the employee or independent contractor and you as the employer. It should cover whether the position is “at will” or for a specified period of time. Does the work product of the employee become property of your company? How will trade secret and company confidential information be identified and managed? There should be a trade secret component that applies to important company trade secrets such as customer lists, suppliers and other proprietary information. The employment contract should cover disciplinary processes and procedures as well as causes for termination.
While non-compete agreements can be legally challenging here in California, the employment contract (or a separate document included in the employment packet) should address employee behaviors after leaving the employ of the company, the use of company trade secrets and information in a competitive role, and prohibit the ability to recruit or “poach” any existing company employees after separation. A strong employment contract should establish processes for managing disputes and the legal venue(s) for dispute resolution.
The employee handbook extends your legal protections as an San Diego employer while preventing disputes or lawsuits due to poorly developed or non-existent policies. The Lawyer for Employers team works to craft a tool that make onboarding a smoother process, while establishing enforceable standards for employee conduct. The policies outlined in the handbook also support strategies that reduce or eliminate unpaid overtime claims by clearly establishing a policy that all overtime must be approved in advance and in writing by the employee’s direct supervisor. The handbook should further establish the responsibility of the employee to report all overtime hours worked within the associated pay period under penalty of perjury (supported by other working documents such as time reporting cards or sheets).
The employee handbook communicates rules and policies governing your workplace, as well as all relevant local, state and federal laws and regulations. The employee handbook should be regularly updated to reflect all changes in these laws and regulations, and written acknowledgement of these notices to employees should be signed and added to the handbook as well as the employer’s file for the employee.
The employee handbook must address specific federal and state laws including (but not limited to) sexual harassment, discrimination, ADA, FMLA, the Fair Labor Standards Act or FLSA, wage and hour laws including meal and rest breaks as well as workers compensation and other public notice requirements. The employee handbook should address company policies on privacy (or the absence of privacy rights) when using all company assets such as computers, cell phones, company systems and “personal” communications such as e-mail or voice mail.
The Employment Contract and Employee Handbook Reduce or Eliminate Disputes and Lawsuits
An effectively crafted and regularly updated employment contract and employee handbook and all associated documents reduces or eliminates your exposure as a San Diego employer to disputes and lawsuits. The “Lawyer for Employers” team will work with you to develop custom tailored documents for your company, as well as supporting policies and procedures and management directives that ensure compliance with all laws and reduced exposure in the event of a dispute.
We invite you to contact us, or call (619) 996-9960 for a free consultation. Learn more about the importance of well crafted and executed employment documents and how the “Lawyer for Employers” team will work to protect your interests and increase the success and performance of those you employ or contract with.