New Hire Documents: Implementing Best Practices

If you haven’t reviewed your New Hire documents lately, now is the time to do so.  Most states require employers to give new employees various documents when they are hired to fulfill the requirement to inform employees of their rights and responsibilities. Other forms fulfill legal requirements to gain information from the New Hire.  The I-9 form is chief among them, particularly in light of the issues we are facing with undocumented workers and immigration policy upheaval.

The purpose of the I-9 form is to confirm that the new employee is eligible to work in the United States.  It is required to be completed within the first 3 days of employment. Employers may NOT tell New Hires which documents they must bring in (e.g. their Social Security card and driver’s license), but instead must provide them with the List of Acceptable Documents so they may choose which one(s) to bring in.  The best way to give the list to a New Hire is to attach it to the offer letter.  You don’t give offer letters?  If not, that is a critical omission in your hiring process because it is one of the first pieces of communication about the person’s conditions of employment.

When you are ready to hire someone, you no doubt have told them the amount of pay you plan to give them and discussed the job duties as well as their start date.  Is this person going to drive as part of their job? If so, do you want to see their Motor Vehicle Report (MVR) before they start working for you?  Do they handle money or have access to prescription drugs or expensive inventory? Do you want to do a background check before hiring them?  You can’t do either in many states– get an MVR or do a background check– before you have made a conditional offer of employment to them.  How can you prove that you’ve made that conditional offer before getting that information? Because you made that offer in writing, and your offer of employment was conditioned on a clean MVR and/or a background check that had no information on it that was applicable to the job.

The reason for that last statement is because Congress just passed the Fair Chance Act making it illegal for federal agencies and employers with federal contracts to refuse to hire someone with a prison record unless their crime would have a direct impact on the work they will do.  Here is a link that explains the intention and substance of the law:  In this article there is a link to the states and cities across the US that have passed similar laws affecting private employers.  Here is the link to see if your business is in one of the many jurisdictions that are affected:

If your offer letter is written correctly, it will state the title of the position, who the position reports to, the rate of pay expressed as an hourly amount or monthly amount (not just an annual amount), the classification of the position as either exempt or nonexempt, the start date and that the benefits given to the employee are outlined in the employee handbook.  It will also include the at-will doctrine and have a place for the New Hire to sign indicating acceptance of the offer.  If there are special contingencies, they will also be noted in the offer.

Many offer letters I have seen outline the benefits in full detail. While that isn’t wrong, I don’t recommend it because there have been instances where the employer wants to change or eliminate a benefit and the employee says no, those benefits were part of my offer and they constitute a contract because I based my acceptance in part on them.  It is better to refer to the handbook, which of course should be current, for the New Hire to see eligibility requirements, and who they should talk to about the benefits in more detail.  Benefit offerings change often every year so putting the details in either the offer letter or the handbook may not inform the employee of the current offerings or eligibility requirements.

In addition to the I-9 and a clearly written offer letter, depending on your state, there may be a number of pamphlets that are required to be given. Examples include information about wage replacement options such as temporary disability insurance or state disability insurance, workers’ compensation information, and paid family leave in the applicable states.  If you would like more information about what is required to be given at hire, we can assist you and in CA, we can provide you with all the forms that are necessary for an effective onboarding experience for your New Hire.