When is the last time you looked through your kitchen cabinets and cleaned out expired cans of food?  If you are like me, it was a few years ago.  My wife and I recently tackled this chore and it was quite an educational moment.  For starters, I was shocked to learn just how many cans of expired food we had in our cabinets.

Similar to your kitchen cabinets, handbooks need to be regularly cleaned, examined and updated in order to avoid congestion, conflicting or erroneous policies, and to incorporate new statements of law.  For instance, if you created your employee handbook several years ago when you started your company or when you expanded into California, then several of your handbook’s policies and procedures are most likely outdated (and perhaps illegal) under current California law.  This could result in significant exposure for your company should an employee file a claim.

Even if your company’s handbook was recently updated, California passes new employment laws each year that may affect your handbook and demand that your company make immediate changes to your policies and practices.  Below are some highlights of recent laws that should be addressed in your company’s handbook and policies moving forward:

  • Employees may now use kin care for the same purposes specified under the paid sick leave law.  Employees may use kin care leave to care for grandparents, grandchildren, siblings, children, parents, a spouse, or a domestic partner.  It can now be used for diagnosis, care, treatment of an existing health condition, or for preventative care.
  •  Additional reasons for being able to take leave under California’s school activities leave law were implemented.  The new law prohibits discharging or in any way discriminating against an employee who needs to find a school for a child, enroll a child in school, participate in school activities, or respond to a child care or school emergency.
  • California revised its equal pay law to become the strongest law in the nation which will exponentially increase litigation.  Under the new law, an employer is prohibited from paying employees of the opposite sex lower wage rates for “substantially similar work, when viewed as a composite of skill, effort, and responsibility, and performed under similar working conditions.”  An employee can now compare themselves to employees in other locations (and not just their own facility) and other job categories as long as the work is “substantially similar.”
  •  There are new prohibitions preventing an employer from retaliating against an employee’s family members for engaging in whistleblowing activities.
  • New protections for employees requesting accommodation of disability or religious beliefs were implemented.  Religious accommodations is a very hot issue and you need to ensure your company’s written dress code and/or “look” policies are compliant and flexible.
  • Supervisor sexual harassment training must now include identifying and preventing abusive conduct or “bullying” in the workplace.
  • Unpaid interns and volunteers are protected from discrimination and harassment under FEHA.

The list goes on and on and it is especially longer if you have not updated your company’s handbook in over a year. 

Moving forward, I recommend committing to completing two tasks in Spring of 2016 which will greatly improve the quality of your life: (1) cleaning out your kitchen cabinets and (2) updating or drafting a new employee handbook.  Completing each task brings an immediate high level of satisfaction, accomplishment, and relief.  The other prospect is not knowing what is behind your closed doors and biting into some “clam chowder” from 1999 which does not “quite taste right.”

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