In our last blog in the California Employment Law blog series, we touched on the differences between employees, independent contractors and interns. As we discussed, each business relationship has benefits and drawbacks, as a result, it is important to carefully consider your needs as a business owner before jumping into a particular employment relationship. Once you’ve identified the correct type of employment relationship, you will want to set the appropriate expectations for those relationships. If you choose to hire an employee on either a full-time or part-time basis, you’ll want to carefully define that relationship and set the appropriate expectations, so that the employment relationship is beneficial and your small business is successful.
Employment Contracts in Small Business Employment Relationships
Employment contracts are important regardless of the size of your business. Unfortunately, small business owners routinely skip the creation of employment contracts only to find themselves in trouble when the employment relationship goes sour. Many small business owners assume that they don’t need a contract because California is an “at-will” employment state. But contracts allow you to define the scope of the employment relationship and give you something to fall back on if you need to terminate the employment relationship because the employee is not meeting his or her responsibilities.
Using Job Descriptions in Your Small Business
Job descriptions are an important piece for clearly defining your relationship with your employees. Whenever possible, your potential employees should be presented with the job description at the same time as the employment contract. If you currently have employees working for you without a job description, we strongly encourage you to create job descriptions for each of their positions. A good job description will have:
- Job title
- Pay grade or range
- Expected work schedule (including overtime, weekend and travel if required)
- Summary of key responsibilities
- Identification of an supervisory and/or reporting duties
- Job qualifications
- Special demands of the job
- Detailed list of job duties and responsibilities
Employee Manuals for Small Business Owners
The creation of employee manuals allow employers to clearly define behaviour and performance standards on a company wide basis. Properly crafted employee policies can help you avoid conflicts, miscommunication and ultimately litigation on a number of issues. Many of our clients choose to create employee policies and employee manuals address things like
- Cell phone use
- Vacation time
- Sick leave
- Non-discrimination policy
Severance Policies and Procedures
Unfortunately, some employment relationships don’t work out and terminating employees can be a difficult thing to do for small business owners. By creating your policies and procedures for terminating an employee before you need to fire someone, you can minimize the stress of the transition on yourself and the employee you are letting go. Furthermore, by creating and following your policies and procedures, you minimize the risk of being sued by a former employee.
Ultimately, in order to help you avoid costly employment disputes and litigation, your employment documents must comply with the federal employment laws, as well as California employment laws. Working with an attorney to craft your employment contracts, employee handbooks, job descriptions and termination policies and procedures will save you time, aggravation and money in the long run. If you have questions about any of the documents we’ve discussed in this blog, we’d be happy to talk with you!
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