Question: I recently attended a new employment laws seminar and it got me thinking about conducting a broader review of company policies. I manage a fairly large services company and while we have good policies, I may budget some time for a top to bottom review this year. Do you have recommendations for what to prioritize?
Answer: Great question. While it is important to stay educated on legal changes, it is also critical to step back periodically for a bigger picture look. A good place to begin is the employee handbook. Attending new laws seminars is a great first step to determine if you need to make any changes to the handbook. Next, be sure that any changes to the law that apply to your business are incorporated into your handbook, any other written policies you may have, and other employee forms. After that critical yearly maintenance, also take the time to conduct a generalized review of the handbook. Has the company grown (or shrunk) over the years? If so, different legal obligations may apply. Does the structure of the handbook suit your current operations and hierarchy? Basically, consider whether the handbook still accomplishes its goal – providing employees with a centralized, accurate, compendium of legally compliant policies in conformity with actual company practice.
Another area ripe for periodic review is job descriptions. Companies and jobs change over time, and often job descriptions that are even 2 years old no longer accurately describe the actual jobs employees are performing. This sometimes makes it difficult to assess employees’ performance and can be a costly oversight when defending employment claims. It is important for job descriptions to describe the essential tasks and physical requirements of the job. While it may be impractical to review all job descriptions annually, aim to implement a schedule for periodic review of job descriptions.
Examining the pay structure in your company is also important. California’s fairly new equal pay for equal work law requires just that – equal pay for “substantially similar” work regardless of the employee’s gender or race. If your job description review indicates employees (regardless of differing job titles) perform arguably similar work “as a composite of skill, effort and responsibility” – pay adjustments may be required to comply with equal pay laws.
When doing your big-picture policy review determine whether policies and procedures are being followed in practice. Seek out areas where policies are not being followed or appropriately communicated and identify training opportunities. Policies that are not implemented or that do not reflect a company’s actual practice can do more harm than good. If you identify compliance problems, invest in training for managers and employees.
In addition to the items already identified, time and resources permitting, a 2017 big-picture review should include the following:
• Train relevant staff and management on new laws affecting them;
• Review compliance with timekeeping, overtime, sick leave, meal and rest period laws;
• Review the impact of new marijuana laws on your drug policies;
• Review I-9 procedures and ensure they are followed;
• Confirm records retention policies are implemented;
• Confirm all single user bathrooms are designated genderless; and
• Ensure that hourly and salaried employees are paid sufficiently under the new higher minimum wage.
Given the complex and ever-changing nature of California employment law, periodic big picture reviews are an investment every employer should consider.