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California Employee Handbook Requirements: Covering All Your Bases

November 29, 2022

Employee handbooks are challenging to create, but they are important documents. As a California-based employer, there are several reasons to create an employee handbook which benefit both you as an employer and your employees. First, clear communication of company policies helps employees become acquainted with company culture and expectations. Moreover, a well-crafted employee handbook can help protect an organization or business against legal action in instances where an employee attempts to file a complaint but the organization has abided by its stated policies. For example, in Duong v. Benihana Nat’l Corp. (2020 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 165178), Benihana was able to show that the former employee violated their workplace violence policy, which ultimately protected them from a wrongful termination lawsuit.

So, how can you most efficiently create an effective California Employee Handbook? To answer this question, we will:

  • Review some of the requirements and recommendations to keep in mind when creating a California Employee Handbook*
  • Discuss the importance of using a trusted resource like Practical Guidance’s Employee Handbook Supplement (CA) to build your employee handbook

Getting Started: Creating a California Employee Handbook

It’s critical to become well-acquainted with all legal requirements before beginning to draft an employee handbook. Policies for handbook creation vary by state, with California having its own set of requirements and recommendations. While state-specific requirements are intended to offer additional layers of protection for all parties involved, the varying policies and guidelines can make the process of building an employee handbook daunting.

What’s more, the question of what is required in an employee handbook is complex. California does not require employers to have an employee handbook. But if the employer decides to have a handbook, it will need to provide certain policies in it to provide notice of these policies to employees.  Additionally, determining what is required on both a federal and state level versus what is strongly recommended is not straight-forward.  

Are Employee Handbooks Required in California?

No, employee handbooks are not required in California. However, having an employee handbook is still best practice for several reasons:

  • Handbooks often serve as the main vehicle for employers to provide required notices to employees
  • Handbooks help employees better understand company culture and expectations, which is helpful during the onboarding process
  • Handbooks can serve as a defense if an employee complaint leads to legal action
  • Handbooks equip and empower both the employee and employer to know their rights in the workplace

To ensure each of these items are accomplished, follow the general guidelines below and consult Practical Guidance for assistance.

Employee Handbook Guidelines

While determining what to include in an employee handbook can be challenging, a basic outline of your handbook will likely consist of the following: 

  • An introduction containing:
    • A welcome to the employees
    • A statement that the handbook is not an employment contract (California does not view handbooks as employment contracts)
    • An “at-will” statement, which signifies that both the employee and employer can terminate the working relationship at any time
  • Any additional federal requirements
  • Any additional California requirements
  • Any optional clauses or sections you would like to include
  • An acknowledgement provision, where the employee signs a statement acknowledging that they’ve read, reviewed, and understood the employee handbook

We recommend using a trusted resource to guide you through the employee handbook creation process. Practical Guidance’s California Employee Handbook Supplement—which includes California, San Francisco, and Los Angeles employment policies—can help ensure you haven’t missed any policies that are required and/or important for your organization.

California Employee Handbook Supplement

The  Employee Handbook Supplement (CA)—which includes California, San Francisco, and Los Angeles employment policies—on Practical Guidance operates as a starting point for your employee handbook draft. Going beyond a basic employee handbook template, this resource is specific to the state of California and includes required policies, optional policies, and the appropriate language for each policy. This supplement acts as a California employee handbook builder, encompassing the following:

  • A summary, which provides an overview of the supplement
  • Quick navigation menu to the main employee handbook sections included in the document
  • Required and optional California policies
  • Drafting notes, which provide guidance on drafting key sections of each employment policy
  • Alternate and optional clauses
  • An option to open the form in a Microsoft Word document for easy editing

image of California Employee Handbook Supplement Homepage

California Employee Handbook Supplement Homepage (Click to Enlarge)

In addition to this supplement, Practical Guidance contains several other resources to help with California employee handbook creation and the development of other employee handbooks as well, including:

With these resources, you can feel confident in your employee handbook creation process, knowing that you haven’t missed any important policies, ultimately protecting your organization and its employees.

Getting Started on Practical Guidance

LexisNexis® is here to help you with your organizational needs. Start building an effective California Employee Handbook with Practical Guidance on Lexis+.  Contact a sales representative

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*This blog does not constitute legal advice