Has this ever happened to you?  Your boss comes back from a seminar or shoots you an email that says “we need a policy on [you fill in the blank here: social media, whistle-blowing, cell phones].”  So you rush to download a policy from the Internet, and distribute it to employees to address the hot issue of the moment.  Good idea?  No.  In fact, it is one of my pet peeves.

Every California employer, large or small, needs three things: (1) an Employee Handbook that addresses California specific issues; (2) a comprehensive Confidentiality Agreement to protect the company’s information to the greatest extent possible; and (3) an Arbitration Agreement (this one is optional, but given the legal trend nationwide, generally a good idea for many businesses and worth considering).

All three of these documents should be drafted as a set, so that they don’t unintentionally contradict each other.  For example, your Confidentiality Agreement should not allow the employer to go to court for a TRO when your Arbitration Agreement provides otherwise.

The Employee Handbook should be the place for all policies, and should be updated annually, preferably at the same time each year.  Is January a busy time?  Then update the handbook every July or September.  There is no rule that says it has to be updated in January. 

Then when new policy issues come up, simply make a note of the issue, and incorporate it into the Handbook at the next revision.  Make sure the new policy is consistent with all of the policies already in place.  For example, a social media policy should be cross-referenced with your harassment, conflict of interest, employee references, and technology policies.  Have employees sign off on the updated handbook each year.

So next time someone rushes over to you and says “we need a policy on X,” impose some order on the process and don’t just react.  Your policies will be much better for it.