HR Management & Compliance

The 4 Things You Should Never Put in an Employee Handbook

Yesterday, we began our list of the top 10 employee handbook drafting pitfalls to avoid, courtesy of the law firm of Lehr Middlebrooks & Vreeland, PC. Today, the remainder of the list — plus a ready-to-roll solution to all of your handbook drafting hassles.

[For Nos. 1-6 on the list, click here.]

No. 7: Use permissive language
No, this isn’t a political or social statement. It’s just a guideline that allows your company maximum flexibility. Words such as “may,” “typically,” and “generally” are less restrictive than words such as “will” or “must.”

Permissive language is simply another tool to allow you to choose how to apply and interpret your employee handbook. While consistency in interpretation is important, you want to reserve the flexibility to make exceptions and interpret policies when appropriate.


101 California-specific employee handbook policies — emailed to you immediately!


No. 8: 10 important policies to consider
There are many policies that are important to have in your handbook. Here are a few that sometimes get overlooked:

  • at-will employer/disclaimer
  • injury reporting
  • equal employment opportunity
  • harassment/discrimination
  • hours of work/meal breaks
  • FMLA
  • Internet/e-mail
  • reasonable accommodation
  • attendance and tardiness
  • rules of conduct/discipline

No. 9: Four things you can’t (or shouldn’t) say in an employee handbook
Some things can get you into trouble when drafting your handbook. Here are some topics to avoid:

  1. Just cause. You don’t need cause to terminate or discipline an employee in an at-will state like California. Why create confusion?
  2. Permanent position. Never, ever refer to “regular” employment positions as “permanent.” It tends to create an expectation that employment is guaranteed. It’s not; it’s at will.
  3. Due process. Never promise “due process” or anything similar for disciplinary actions or grievances.
  4. Probationary period. Use the term “orientation” or “introductory” period instead. “Probationary” creates an expectation that the employee’s status will change after he completes the period. It doesn’t. The employee is still employed at will.

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No. 10: Mistakes employers make with handbooks
There are many things employers do with handbooks that you can avoid by simply reading this list and not following in their footsteps:

  • “Oops, I forgot.” You put all your work into a great handbook and then fail to distribute it to your employees. Unfortunate? Yes, but it happens more often than you might think.
  • Neglecting to get the John Hancock. Distributing a handbook is no good if you don’t have a record of who received it. Make sure you have a signed acknowledgment from every employee that he or she received and reviewed the handbook, as well as any updates.
  • Winging it. Many employers write handbooks, distribute them, and then fail to read and follow them when making important employment decisions. Read your handbook and follow it.
  • Putting it on the shelf. Handbooks should be reviewed and updated at least annually for legal compliance and to ensure that you’re following your own policies.
  • “I don’t need any help with that, thanks.” Many employers have concluded that they are experts in all things, including handbooks. Better yet, they buy the do-it-yourself software package at the local Office Wiz store and produce a handbook. Unfortunately, those one-size-fits-all packages don’t adequately reflect state law — a serious problem in California! — and are often poorly drafted. Having your handbook reviewed by an employment law attorney is an important part of having a handbook that will be a benefit and not a detriment to your overall employment-law risk management. Good luck!

Treat your handbook with the respect it deserves
A handbook can be a valuable tool for your business, or it can be a source of confusion (and even litigation). Treat your handbook with the respect that it deserves as a vital communication link to your employees. Spend time developing it, update it periodically, and have it reviewed by experts.

Even better, let us take the drafting work off your plate for you. Our California Employee Handbook Template includes 101 vital policies — written specifically for employers in California — including:

  • At-Will Employment
  • Employee Classifications
  • Social Media Code of Conduct
  • Right to Observe Employees
  • Voice Mail, Email, Electronic and Computer Files, and Usage
  • Appearance and Courtesy; Uniforms
  • Equal Employment Opportunity
  • Harassment Prohibited
  • Retaliation Prohibited
  • Bullying Prohibited
  • Accommodation of Disabilities
  • Zero Tolerance for Drugs or Alcohol in the Workplace
  • Terminations
  • Final Pay
  • Progressive Discipline
  • Rest Periods
  • Meal Periods
  • Overtime Pay, Authorization, and Mandatory Overtime
  • Payroll Deductions
  • Travel Time Pay
  • Bereavement Leave
  • COBRA Coverage for Health Insurance
  • And 79 more!

Click here for a full Table of Contents.

All of the policies are fully editable and customizable — when you order, you’ll get a link to editable Word versions of all 101 policies. You can start building your handbook right away!

All of the policies in the California Employee Handbook Template have been drafted by an experienced California employment lawyer. Plus, we’ve provided practical information for every single policy on:

  • Which employers the policy applies to
  • Which employees the policy applies to
  • Whether the policy is required or optional
  • Special considerations

It’s like having a California employment lawyer on call, working on your handbook 24/7, at a fraction of the cost!

Best of all, we’ll send you a brand-new edition each year so that you always have the most up-to-date policies available. Don’t delay — order today and get your handbook up to date once and for all.

Download your free copy of 20 Must-Have Employee Handbook Policies today!