Because California’s employment laws are so employee-friendly, it is important for employers to establish from the outset of the employment relationship the terms and conditions of employment. Too many employers overlook the importance of a well-drafted offer letter, counter-signed by the newly hired employee, that not only sets forth the material terms of employment, but also explicitly requires new hires to affirm compliance with the most critical hot-button employment issues that often arise in employment litigation. The offer letter in no way replaces the employee handbook, but serves to supplement the more generic provisions set forth in an employee handbook applicable to your entire workforce.
Creating a Solid Checklist
At a minimum, all California employers should require all newly hired employees to counter-sign the employee offer letter that sets forth:
- Employee’s title and position,
- Type of employment (i.e., full time, part-time, temporary, seasonal, as-needed)
- Identity of the employers (i.e., if paid by one employer but directed by another);
- Starting salary, or hourly wage;
- Classification as exempt or non-exempt;
- The offer of employment is conditioned upon the receipt of proof of legal eligibility to work in the United States, successful completion of all background and reference checks.
- Expected start date;
- If accepted, that the employee will be given additional information about the Company, including, but not limited to, its policies and procedures, the employee’s duties, responsibilities, as well as, the Company’s expectations for this position. This is where the employer should identify the most critical hot-button employment issues that often arise in employment litigation as well as any other issues notable in the industry or the employer has previously experienced. This typically includes confidentiality, non-disclosure, electronic communications, devices, storage, use and transmission of Company information;
- For non-exempt employees, scheduled work hours for position, compliance with Company’s recordkeeping, overtime, after-hours, remote, overtime, rest and meal break policies;
- Eligibility to participate in the Company’s insurance and employee benefit programs, subject to the terms, conditions, limitations, and exclusions in those programs, highlighting paid vacation and sick leave, ensuring compliance with California sick leave laws and local ordinances;
- Employment is at will followed by a clearly written explanation of what that means and that no individual, other than the Company’s President, has the legal authority or ability to alter the at-will nature of the employment relationship and, only in writing. Also, by accepting the offer, confirm that there are no oral, collateral, or other written statements by any employee or representative of the Company to the contrary which establishes an integrated employment agreement.
- Set forth how long the offer of employment is open.
Also, California employers are required to provide to all non-exempt employees within seven days of hiring a “Notice to Employee,” setting forth the rate of pay, designated payday, the employers, the basis for wage payments and applicable overtime rates, identification of workers’ compensation carrier and contact information, and paid sick leave laws. Also, any changes to the information set forth in this Notice must be provided to these employees within seven calendar days after the time of the changes, unless all changes are reflected on a timely wage statement furnished in accordance with Labor Code section 226 or notice of all changes is provided in another writing required by law within seven days of the changes.