By Michael Thompson

You are busy. You’re a small-business owner with a to-do list a mile long. Or maybe you’re a manager or HR professional being pulled in fifteen different directions.

Also, employment law is complex and demanding (especially in California). Even simple things like updating your handbook to address 2020 changes feels like a project that will have to wait for another day.  Or week.  Or 2021.

These two things are a difficult but common combination. The truth is, eliminating all exposure to employment issues is unrealistic. At the very least, it is too much to accomplish in one day.

So let’s talk about one thing you can accomplish today that will put you in a better position than you were yesterday.

Today (right now, actually), you will send an email to all of your employees, but not about outstanding orders or performance benchmarks or happy hour. This email will be about workplace harassment.  And look, it’s already drafted:


I want to take a moment to remind you about an important company policy.

[(Your Company Name) is committed to providing a work environment free of harassment, discrimination, or other unprofessional conduct.  Sexual harassment, or discrimination or harassment on the basis of any category protected by law, will not be tolerated. This policy also applies to customers, vendors, and anyone else who comes into contact with our employees.]  For more information on this policy, please consult the employee handbook or speak with (me/human resources/your supervisor).

If you experience [harassment or discrimination] or witness another employee experience it, you have a duty to immediately bring this information to the attention of (your supervisor). If you do not believe the matter can be discussed with (your supervisor), you can discuss this or any other issue with (me/human resources/the company president). All reports will be investigated promptly and fairly, and the company will protect you from retaliation or punishment for making a complaint or cooperating in an investigation.

Thank you,

Modify the information in (parenthesis) to fit your company and remove the [brackets].  Personalize it as you feel appropriate.

Now, go send it.  We’ll wait.


Done? Great. Here is what that email accomplishes: If harassment or discrimination is occurring in the workplace, it is better that you find out now so that you can address it. Or would you rather find out when terminating an employee five months from now? Or getting sued out of the blue three years from now? Frequently, such claims will allege that the conduct occurred over a long period of time. But if the plaintiff receives this email and says nothing, this email will be powerful evidence for your company’s defense of the claim.

Even better, this email is flexible and can be modified to address more than just [harassment or discrimination].  What about [off-clock work]?  Just substitute this into the brackets of the second paragraph:

[(Your Company Name) does not permit non-exempt employees to work “off the clock,” and does not permit any employee to encourage or pressure another employee to do so. You must accurately report all time that you work and may not falsify your time record or that of another employee. You should examine all of your time records and paystubs to ensure you are being properly paid for all of your work.]

The same can be done for [meal and rest breaks].  Or [violations of law].  Or [business expenses].

Take an extra second to set a reminder six months from now to do this again.

Congrats, you took a concrete step today to protect your business.  See you next week.