As you begin to grow your business, your first thought is usually to bring on people to help increase deliverables and revenue. However, before you hire your first employee, you must have the systems in place to protect you and your business. When hiring new employees, this means having a time-tracking and payroll system in place. Those are easy to implement with online resources like Quickbooks, Square Space or ADP or other payroll programs which fully integrate these functions into your workplace. However, the one thing you must have in place before you hire your first employee is an employee handbook.
The law requires that businesses have an employment handbook to provide its employees with the “rules of the road” of working for your company. In the event that your company is sued for some form of discrimination, administrative agencies like the Division of Civil Rights and the EEOC as well as our courts require proof that the company maintained a handbook that strictly prohibited that type of behavior. These agencies also want to know that that the employees received annual training on what behavior would be unacceptable. Should your employee file a claim with the Division of Civil Rights or the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in NJ, you will be asked for a copy of the handbook during the investigation phase and failure to produce one will have significant negative implications.
Your handbook also provides your employees with the mechanism by which they can complain to the Company about inappropriate behavior being experienced in the workplace. Without an effective, facially neutral complaint mechanism, your anti-discrimination and harassment policies are nullified. Employees must be trained and re-trained annuals on the Company’s expectation regarding adherence to the handbook policies to show that you have done what you can to make your expectations clear. In this age, where everyone lives their lives on the internet, you need some clear parameters about what your employees can and cannot say about your company. You can also include rules about the use and abuse of company issues smart phones, laptops and tablets.
And if you already have an employee handbook, make sure that you do an annual audit to account for changing legal requirements and ensure that you discuss same in your annual trainings. These small additions to your business practices are essential!