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The employment relationship begins with the hiring process. Federal and state law impose a number of requirements on what employers must do at this stage. The standard steps include completing a W-4 form and I-9. However, employers are also required to provide new hires with pamphlets on state disability insurance, paid family leave, workers’ compensation information, sexual harassment and the designation of personal physician/chiropractor form. Employers with 20+ employees must provide an initial COBRA notice. New hires must also be reported to the EDD.
Although not required, prudent employers will have contracts with each employee even if it only includes the position, compensation, confidentiality provision, and, most importantly, the at-will employment relationship. California law holds a written contract cannot be modified by a subsequent oral agreement even with respect to the at-will relationship. This is significant because it permits employers to speak freely about an employee’s performance without concern by doing so the at-will relationship can be affected. For example, comments that employment will continue with the employee’s good performance will not undermine a written contract with an at-will provision by transforming it into a good cause agreement.
A confidentiality provision insures employees understand information learned on the job is proprietary and confidential as well as considered trade secret. Such a provision will provide a basis should any litigation arise against an ex-employee, or the ex-employee’s new employer, for misappropriation of confidential, proprietary and trade secret information.
The utilization of employment contracts and confidentiality provisions are not complex and once developed can be used for most, if not all, employees with only slight modifications.