Both the fed and state have, within the last year, issued new regulations finalizing changes which require employers to have written policies pertaining to equal employment and harassment. The new policies need to address the categories that are protected against discrimination and harassment in the workplace as well as a procedure for employees to follow to seek relief. This procedure should allow employees to skip over the immediate supervisor if they are involved in the perceived misconduct and go to a higher authority within the company. Within the policy, not only should there be definitions of the prohibition against harassment and discrimination but likewise the outline of the procedure to be used should guarantee that the employer will; 1) investigate complaints promptly and thoroughly, 2) take appropriate action if it is determined that a violation has occurred, and 3) assure employees that there will be no retaliation for filing such complaints. What is more, the new regulations require that any employer with 10% or more employees who speak a language other than English translate the policy into the language spoken by their workforce.
These policies are only a portion of the information that should be documented in a well drafted employee handbook and employers are encouraged to seek counsel for such materials as the legal impact of such written materials can either be a benefit or a detriment depending upon how they are drafted. Employee handbooks are considered a contract which must be observed according to both the State Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court and therefore, the employee handbooks much be carefully written and include not only necessary language but information that the employer desires to impart to employees in order to have a better informed and operating workforce. All such policies including the new updated EEO and harassment policies must be acknowledged in writing by employees in a way that the employer can prove that the employee received, understood and agreed to abide by the policies.
For further information regarding these requirements and/or assistance in drafting, please contact Dave Cohen at Cohen Durrett/The Employers’ Council (916) 927-8797