If you require a background check and drug testing as conditions of hire, appropriate waivers for such requirements need to be secured after you select the candidate but before you formally hire him or her. In the event the background check or drug test reveals information that precludes employment, paperwork documenting the accuracy of this information is required. It’s a good idea to confer with legal counsel to ensure that these forms comply with applicable federal and state requirements.
—Steven M. Harris, Esq.
Once an employee has been hired, the employee’s contact information, tax information, employment eligibility verification (i.e., the I-9 form) and benefits elections need to be gathered. These documents are the beginning of the personnel file. An indication as to the starting wage should also be included. Many employers choose to document the initial terms and conditions of employment in an offer letter. Good offer letters lay out the baseline initial terms of hire while making clear that these terms can change at the discretion of the employer. Many offer letters include no such reservation of rights as to changing terms and conditions of employment, giving fodder to claims that the employee has a contract with set terms.
An employee handbook is not a contract. In fact, your employee handbook should state in conspicuous terms that it is not a promise of employment for any set duration and that it is subject to amendment at any time, with or without notice. Rather, an employee handbook is an important tool in establishing the terms and conditions of employment, which you can amend from time to time.