This blog originally appeared on the myHRcounsel website. It is reprinted with permission.   


1. Offer Letter 

Covering everything from employment status to a statement saying compensation may be modified at the employer’s discretion at any time, business owners must make sure that both parties understand the terms of employment and avoid any confusion once hired. 

2. Employee Handbook 

An Employee Handbook is the core guidance and compliance document business owners must give to all employees covering legally required policies and employment law-related topics (leave, accommodation, investigations, etc.). It can be a powerful exhibit in defense of the business owner against employee claims if drafted legally and kept up to date. 

It is critical to update your Employee Handbook each year, and most critical in 2024 with the recent decision issued by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) in Stericycle, Inc., which has most likely made your employee handbook and written company policies unlawful. The ruling affects the following policies: 

  • Use of Personal Electronic Devices  
  • Personal Conduct  
  • Conflict of Interest  
  • Harassment Complaints  
  • Electronic Communications and  
  • Camera and Video Use 

3. Hiring Documents

Failure of a business owner to comply with hiring documents like the I-9 verification regulations, required by US Citizenship and Immigration Services, may lead to a timely audit and costly penalty. First offenses vary anywhere from $272 to $2,701. 

4. Performance Review/Discipline Policy 

While a business owner must have a Corrective Action policy in their Employee Handbook which advises that the company is not required to take any corrective action before making an adverse employment decision, including termination, performance reviews and progressive discipline policies prove to be positive employee retention tools saving the franchise owner $4,700 it costs on average for every new hire. 

5. Employment Agreements/Restrictive Covenants 

Legal employment agreements, including restrictive covenants like Non-Competes, Non-Disclosures and Non-Solicitations can successfully protect a owner’s business including clients, employees, and trade secrets but the business owner must follow the appropriate federal and state laws. 

6. Compliance Audit/Checklist 

An HR compliance audit not only keep business owners from avoiding compliance penalties, Fair Labor Standard Act OSHA fines and violations, they also give business owners a competitive advantage by keeping employees protected and as well as motivated, boosting the overall performance of the business and increase to the bottom line. 

7. Termination Letter/Separation Agreement

Termination letters allow business owners to document termination decisions. A thorough and detailed termination letter can prevent a situation where a former employee might claim they were dismissed without knowledge. Separation Agreements, typically involving severance, protect business owners from litigation from former employees as they must “waive their claim” (surrender their right to sue the business owner) to receive the severance.