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June 2, 2022

It’s Time To Update Your Handbook

Agricultural employers, in addition to all the other tools needed to assist in running their businesses, need a written Employee Handbook to protect their company from legal risks, set forth policies and procedures to guide employees and supervisors, and provide information on company benefits.

Why Does an Employer Need an Employee Handbook?
While state and federal law do not require businesses to create or distribute employee handbooks, the law does require every business to memorialize certain workplace policies in writing. For example, the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) requires that employers with at least five employees distribute written harassment, discrimination and retaliation prevention policies. As a risk management tool, the Employee Handbook can be an effective first line of defense against claims of discrimination and other wrongful conduct. Laws continue to change, placing more and more responsibility on employers. Having an Employee Handbook and reviewing it for updated legal compliance is critical for employers.

It is essential for companies to have clear and concise policies and procedures governing management, supervisory and workforce employees. Employee Handbooks typically provide an overview of personnel procedures, work rules, and fringe benefits. Handbooks help with orienting and training new employees; create a legal document which can be used to defend the employer; increase consistent treatment of employees and help avoid favoritism or discrimination; as well as guide the actions of management and supervisory personnel. With more focus on promoting equal opportunity and diversity it is more important than ever that employers understand and follow state, federal and local equal employment laws.

An Employee Handbook should be viewed as a useful resource tool for employees and a risk management tool for employers. As a resource tool the Employee Handbook serves as a one-stop-shop for information on all the businesses most important policies and procedures. A place where employees can quickly find information about employer expectations, benefits, employee rights, and learn about the consequences for failing to adhere to company policies/procedures.

Keep Your Employee Handbook Up-to-Date
Every legislative session sees an onslaught of new laws impacting the employer/employee relationship. Every season sees your company growing and changing. To continue minimizing your organization’s risk, it is important that your employee handbook be as up to date as possible. Therefore, if your company is still using a handbook last updated in the year 2020 or later, you need to update it.  If your company is using one created the year the Family and Medical Leave Act was signed (That’s 1993!), you need to create a new one.  If your company is using an internet searched or off-the-shelf handbook, you absolutely need to create a new one that addresses policies and procedures specifically related to your industry. Don’t have one at all!? you are missing a terrific opportunity to reduce your legal risk, communicate with your employees about company expectations, opportunities, and benefits.

Employers needing to update or create an Employee Handbook should consider joining Western Growers at its next Employee Handbook Workshop. Using Western Growers’ Model Handbook, each Workshop provides an opportunity for attendees to complete a customized legally compliant Employee Handbook ready to distribute to your organization’s Employees.