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These Business Policies Must be in Writing

By Guest Writer | Last updated on

Guest post by Jennifer K. Halford, Esq.

In a prior post I shared three reasons why your company policies should be in writing. That post generated valuable feedback from employers seeking clarification about which company policies must actually be placed in writing.

Let me clarify that it is not practical or cost-effective to put every conceivable policy in writing. Nor is it legally advisable.

For instance, you do not want to have a written policy that you are not going to consistently and fairly enforce. This can be used against you if your employment practices are ever legally questioned. Likewise, you do not want to have so many written policies that they get lost in your office or in your employee handbook. A policy is not effective if no one knows it exists.

So what policies must you have in writing?

Here are the three general categories:

1. Policies required by law: State and federal laws require some employers to have certain polices. For instance, many employers are required to have an anti-discrimination and/or anti-harassment policy and a policy that protects whistleblowers from retaliation. Discuss with your attorney which policies your business is legally required to have.

2. Policies that protect your business from liability: Some policies are important to have in writing even if not legally required. For instance, a sexual harassment prevention policy can protect your business by educating employees about inappropriate behavior and thwarting it before it occurs.

3. Policies essential to your business: You know the issues that need to be addressed to ensure your business' success. You may need a policy that limits employee personal use of the internet during work hours. Or you may want to enforce a dress code policy or clarify employee vacation and sick leave . Discuss the issues you think are essential with your attorney to make sure you are not creating unnecessary or cumbersome policies.

And remember that having a written policy is not enough. A policy is only effective if your employees know it is exists and are provided proper training on how to use it. Further, you need to ensure consistent and fair enforcement.

Jennifer K. Halford is an attorney whose practice focuses on business law and estate planning. She is also a professor at California State University, Chico, where she teaches Entrepreneurial Law.

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