This is the third blog in a five part series discussing ways small businesses can save money by developing an employee manual/handbook. The first blog pointed out how employers can reduce their unemployment tax rates by effectively utilizing an employee manual. The second article focused on how profits could be increased by creating a more organized and efficient work environment through such use.

Today we are addressing the third reason businesses can save money and time by implementing employer policies using an employee manual/handbook.

REASON #3: Prevent and Prevail On Discrimination Claims with an Employee Handbook.
When an employee files a charge of discrimination against an employer, what is the first thing an attorney will seek from the employer in preparing a defense? Evidence. The attorney will look for proof the employer did not engage in the alleged conduct. In defending against a claim of unlawful discrimination, whether it is based on race, gender, sex, age, disability, or other protected status, a company’s proof often takes the form of documentary evidence.

Without documentary evidence that an employee manual or handbook was provided to the worker, which typically includes a prohibition against discrimination in the workplace, the employer’s attorney is handicapped in preparing a defense. The absence of such evidence will certainly be pointed out by the employee’s attorney and can weigh heavily on the outcome of the case in the minds of judges and juries. Their reasoning goes something like this: If the employer did not take anti-discrimination laws seriously enough to demonstrate to workers that discriminatory conduct would not be tolerated in their workplace, then the employer did permit the unlawful conduct to occur or even sanctioned.

A well-written anti-discrimination policy will normally include language describing the type of conduct which is prohibited by the employer as well as specific procedures for an aggrieved employee to follow if they believe they have been the subject of unlawful discrimination. By setting forth specific procedures, a company protects itself in a number of ways.

First, as with the above scenario, judges and juries will have evidence to support a finding that the employer did not permit alleged discriminatory conduct to occur in their company. Next, if the employee fails to follow the appropriate procedure as set out in the employee manual, that can also aid a business in their defense, provided the employee manual was communicated to the employee. For a good example of this, see “Yes, Sexual Harassment Plaintiff, You Can Shoot Yourself In The Foot. Here’s How.”, Constangy, Brooks & Smith, LLP, JDSupra at http://www.jdsupra.com/legalnews/yes-sexual-harassment-plaintiff-you-ca-25182/. For this and other important updates, follow us on Twitter at https://twitter.com/Business_attys.

A specific procedure clearly communicated to employees can also aid in bringing allegations of discrimination to light quickly so they can be promptly addressed by the employer, often avoiding expensive legal action altogether. Finally, it serves to plant the idea in the minds of employees that unlawful discrimination will not be tolerated by the employer, which can prevent them from engaging in such conduct in the first place.

These benefits underscore the importance of a well drafted policy manual. It is a travesty when honest, hard-working business owners suffer losses because they did not understand the importance of developing an employee manual. The San Diego attorneys at Gehres Law Library are passionate about supporting small businesses by advising them on employment law issues to protect their interests—saving them time and money. Call our experienced San Diego employment attorneys today.

Stay with us for our next blog in this series – REASON #4: Reduce Worker’s Comp Claims with an Employee Handbook.