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What to Include in an Employee Handbook in California

An employee handbook is an important way for you to connect with your new and existing employees, communicating both the values of your company culture and the expectations you have for your workers going forward. 

In California, you are not required to have an employee handbook. However, you must communicate specific federal, state, and local policies to your employees, and an employee handbook is the perfect place to do so. 

Below we’ll go over some central topics in an employee handbook that you should include in order to comply with the relevant laws and communicate what you need to your employees. 

Clarify That the Handbook Is Not a Contract

 A common misunderstanding is that the expectations laid out in the handbook are a formally binding contract. It’s good to specify that the handbook is not a contract but a description of the employment relationship and that the employment is “at will.” All this means is that either you or the employee may end the employment relationship at will, for any reason, at any time. 

Equal Employment Opportunity


The federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission requires employers not to discriminate against workers. You should specify that all employees must be treated equally, regardless of their: 

  • Race or Ethnicity
  • Sex
  • Religion
  • Age
  • Disability
  • Etc.

California Family Rights


Under California’s Family Rights Act (CFRA), employees are eligible for up to 12 weeks of paid or unpaid leave under certain circumstances. These circumstances include the birth or adoption of a child, needing to care for a family member who is dealing with a severe health condition, or sick leave when the employee has a serious health condition of their own. Please note that starting January 1, of 2023, there is a change to CFRA that employers must provide employees up to five days of bereavement leave for the death of a qualifying family member. This is separate from the 12 weeks and should be listed in the Employee Handbook. 

California employers with five or more employees are required to cover their employees in this way. 

Pay Scales for Employees


An amendment to the Pay Transparency Law (Senate Bill 1162) will now require employers with 15 or more employees, to provide a published pay scale for any job applicant or current employee upon request. This must take place for all job postings both internal and external. Having this pay scale listed in the Employee Handbook by position or a line published “provided upon request,” is appropriate.

Please note that there are several new laws that will be active starting January 1, 2023 in California. As a result, we recommend reaching out about how best to tailor your Employee Handbook to meet these state requirements.

Expectations When Working Remote and at the Office


An employee handbook is an appropriate place to make clear the expectations surrounding remote working. Zoom etiquette and rules about clocking in and out fit well in this section. Employers must comply with workers compensation laws and regulations and workplace safety requirements with respect to their employee’s remote working environments.

You can also review the expectations when your employees are in the office. Having written basic expectations around punctuality, dress, and use of office resources are best outlined in an employee manual where employees may reference the information periodically for up-to-date standards. 

Civic Responsibilities


Employees are also entitled to time off for a number of civic responsibilities. One such entitlement is voting. If employees don’t have enough time outside of work to vote, the employer is required to offer them two hours of paid time off to vote. 

Employers also must give employees time off for jury duty or if they are subpoenaed by a court. However, this does not have to be paid time off. 

Working With Ruben P. Ruiz Law


Keeping track of these requirements is difficult, and there are many more things to be aware of to make sure you are in compliance with all the relevant laws. To make a good employee handbook and to keep abreast of new legal developments, you’ll want to enlist the services of an experienced legal professional. 

At Ruben P. Ruiz PC, you’ll be working with a talented team of lawyers who know the ins and outs of the California legal system. Our boutique size allows us to specialize in areas like employment law relevant to your case. Submit the form below to schedule a consultation about employment law today to learn more about how we can help you. 

Contact us today by filling out the form below. Our fees start at $250 for half an hour. If we decide to work together, the fee for the initial consultation will be credited to your account.

Contact us today by filling out the form below. Our fees start at $250 for half an hour. If we decide to work together, the fee for the initial consultation will be credited to your account.