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Is an Employee Handbook Required in California?

UPDATED 03/08/2023

Although it's not required, having an employee handbook sets expectations, acts as a resource, and a guide for your team to reach for if they have questions about the rules and procedures of your practice.

If you opt to create an employee handbook, you should know that there are certain policies that you should include in it. These policies are regularly updated, and your practice must keep an eye on these updates to ensure your handbook is in line with the law and best practices.

What Are the Benefits of Creating a Handbook in California?

The benefits of creating an employee handbook in California are significant.  Here are the five biggest benefits to consider:

1. Doing so can demonstrate how you comply with the law and all relevant statutes.

2. It helps you develop a process, which ensures consistency in the application of your policies to employee situations and reduces any questions about disparate treatment.

3. It can potentially shield you from litigation and/or having to make large payouts to current, former, and future employees.

4. It communicates topics, procedures, and rules with your employees. This can lead to a more productive work environment.

5. A handbook minimizes the volume of policy-related questions, since employees retain a copy of the handbook. 

What Should I Include in My Employee Handbook?

At a minimum, your employee handbook should contain:

1. Set expectations about employee behavior in the workplace, including conduct that supports EEOC rules.

2. An anti-sexual harassment statement and processes to file complaints about sexual harassment.

3. Leaves of absence/sick leave rules.

4. Incentive and bonus policies.

5. Information about policies specific to your business or industry.

6. Information on employee performance, including how and when employee performance will be evaluated.

Recommended Reading: How to Implement Your Employee Handbook Effectively With Your Team

Workplace Conduct

How an employee conducts themselves in your practice is critical to the success of your business. Your handbook should explicitly lay out the expectations and standards for conduct, and explain the processes by which this conduct will be evaluated. It should also reaffirm adherence to EEOC laws, make an anti-sexual harassment statement, explain standards of conduct at work, and have a statement about the at-will nature of employment.

Work Authorization

This section should address when employees are eligible for employment. It should also discuss under what circumstances that work authorization might change and lay out the procedures for when this will occur. 

Employment Classification

This section would explain the difference between various types of employees, including full-time, part-time, exempt, non-exempt, temporary, or seasonal.

Leave of Absence

This section should explain any required leaves of absence, as well as any other leave policies/benefits. It should also explain the process by which an employee can become eligible and sign up for these types of leave. 

Examples include:

1. Mandated sick leave.

2. Any protected leaves of absence, such as pregnancy, other disability, or domestic violence. The state of California has some specific laws when it comes to leave, and may require certain leaves be available if your practice has more than five employees.

3. Bereavement leave, if offered.

4. Military leave.


Recommended Reading: Employee Leave of Absence: Everything You Need to Know


An employee handbook in California should lay out certain processes, such as:

1. Onboarding.

2. Handling workplace injuries.

3. Standards of conduct.

4. Offboarding, including exit interviews.

It should also lay out benefits, including Paid Time Off, vacation, retirement, medical, vision, etc. This should include explanations about eligibility and where to address questions.

Furthermore, this section should expand upon policies that are specific to the interests of your practice. This includes nondisclosure, secondary employment (working at another job outside of your practice), rules for handling intellectual property, confidentiality policy, adherence to required federal regulations, and more. 

Mistakes to Avoid

While your employee handbook can be profitable in a variety of ways, there are still plenty of things you should avoid to protect yourself. These mistakes to avoid include:

 1. Putting anything into the handbook you may not be able to enforce. Remember, if something is in the handbook, you are required to enforce it. For example, putting a set discipline plan in the handbook is a poor idea, as it costs you flexibility with disciplinary consequences. 

2. Copying/pasting a handbook from another practice or off the internet. You need a handbook that is specific to your interests and practice, and has up to date policies in accordance with state and federal law. 

3. Failing to consult with an appropriate HR professional or legal expert in this area. Doing so can lead to the creation of written evidence of legal violations, exposing you and your practice to serious financial loss.


What Does All of This Mean for Your Handbook?

As you can see, creating an employee handbook can be a complicated, arduous task. It is also a vitally important one. A good handbook can create expectations for your employees, answer questions, and set critical guidance for what you expect from your employees. A handbook that does not address these concerns can expose you to major legal liability and potential financial judgment against your practice. 


How HR for Health Can Help

At the end of the day, your medical, dental, or pharmaceutical practice may simply not have the time or expertise to manage your employee handbook, constantly update it, and enforce it. At HR for Health, we have years of experience in managing practice HR and can collaborate with you to create a customized handbook that protects you and sets expectations for your employees. Interested in learning more? Click here to set up a no-obligation, fifteen-minute demo.