Spanish Employee Handbook for Non-Native Speakers

Much can be lost in translation when employees with a poor grasp of English are forced to sign a handbook without fully understanding the policies contained therein. Your handbook is your protection, but if it can’t be read and understood by your employees, it does you no good. If language is a barrier between your employees and your employee policies, clear communication is the best way to overcome that barrier, and a Spanish-language handbook can help break that barrier down.

In 2012, a Colorado judge ruled in favor of 9 Spanish-speaking employees who, unable to read the English version of the handbooks presented to them, did not know the correct protocol for reporting the sexual harassment they were experiencing. The company would later settle the lawsuit for $255,000, a high price to pay for having all the right policies in place, but a poor grasp on how to communicate those policies to its non-English-speaking employees.

Companies need to communicate their policies, standards and procedures clearly to all their employees.  A Spanish employee handbook removes any barriers.

Troublesome Policies May Be Lurking In Your Handbook

An outdated employee handbook can spell trouble!  Here are a couple of the most common policy problems we see in HR Policy Manuals:

At Will Employment

Some handbooks contain a statement that indicates an “at Will” relationship can be changed is if CEO or President of the company signs a statement indicating that the relationship has changed.  The National Labor Relations Board (NRLB) indicated in a  complaint that such a statement implies unionization is futile.

Non-Disparaging Language

Does your employee handbook explicitly say you can’t use language about your employer that present it in an unflattering light?  Sorry, that’s a first amendment issue and can’t go into the handbook.

Discussion of Compensation

Ditto the above.  You can’t keep employees from sharing this information.

Social Media Policies

Policies that are too broad and have specific prohibitions about sharing unflattering opinions of company employees are probably too broad.  They shouldn’t be included in your handbook.


You can’t force employees to waive their rights to a class action lawsuit!

Take a hard look at the language in your policies.  It can keep you out of hot water.

Your company is unique. Why shouldn’t your Employee Handbook be?

Many companies are retooling their Employee Handbooks to delight and inform their current, and often prospective, employees. Because Employee Handbooks are evolving to encompass company culture, your Handbook ought to jibe with your workplace feel.

A Handbook that is properly designed and executed will hone into your company’s ethics, emotions and logic. The new Employee Handbook is a company culture delivery wagon. These days, employees don’t mind reading the Handbook, in fact, they’ve started embracing it, as long as your Handbook includes one or more of the following:

Digital or interactive format
Visually Pleasing
Emotionally engaging
Anecdotal/ Personal
Narratively accessible

Handbooks are no longer intra-office paperweights taking up drawer space. Many Handbooks are being redubbed “Culture Books” and are no longer marketed to only current employees. Prospective employees can now access many Handbooks online and dial into the company culture before beginning the job application process.

Not just a list of company demands, your Handbook is also an inside look at what your company can offer its employees. Think beyond standard benefits packages. Perks are a great way to ramp up in your Handbook. A few sought-after company perks include:

A great Holiday Party
A softball/dodgeball team
Supportive of continuing education

Don’t overlook the look of your handbook. Many companies are passing on the binders, plastic presentation covers, and hole-punched or spiral-bound floppy copies of drabness, instead opting to have copies hardbound or otherwise aesthetically assembled.

Increasingly, employers such as Zappos, whose Culture Book has gone viral, have discovered that hiring an employee whose personality matches your company’s culture outside of work is obviously more likely to be a better fit than someone who wears one face on the job and another off the clock.

This mindset has led to an uptick in companies who use their Handbooks to cover more than legalese. In fact, some companies have begun to relegate legal liability documents to other sets of employee paperwork, freeing up the Handbook (or “Culture Book”) to inspire current employees while recruiting new ones.

Doing Your Due Diligence!

Is conflict between employers and employees inevitable?

How you answer that question will shine a light on how you view your employee handbook.   A good handbook makes your expectations clear.  Your employees won’t have any ambiguity on your policies, standards and procedures.  It may not prevent the conflict, but it can help you when conflict arises.  And it may keep you out of court.  When it comes to protecting your company, the best approach is often having clearly stated policies and following them consistently.

Many employment problems come from charges of favoritism, discrimination, harassment or wrongful termination.

Here are a couple must-haves for your handbook:

A disclaimer for your Handbook itself

The Handbook should never represent a contract for or offer of employment and cannot possibly cover every workplace situation, nor is it designed to, and the policies can change at any time.

An At-Will clause

As an employer, you can terminate employment at any time, for any reason, with or without notice, with few exceptions. (Montana is one.)

An Anti-Harassment policy and an Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) policy

It is important to have a detailed procedure laid out for any employee who experiences harassment. This policy should include contact and procedural information for anyone who seeks to make a report or lodge a complaint.

Other Important Policies

Policies on Attendance, Tardiness, Dress Code, Smoking, Drug Testing, Substance Abuse,Confidentiality and Non-Competition.

Social Media and Internet clauses if your company has an online presence.

A Safe Working Environment clause

Industry regulations may require additional clauses (meeting OSHA requirements, etc.).

If your company employs over 15 people, you will also need to include disclaimers about Title VII and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

A Code of Conduct, applicable to all.

Your Employee Handbook is a living document that must be updated as laws change. Your Handbook should reflect your compliance with policy that can vary depending on State and Local laws. Be sure to check with a qualified professional about which laws are applicable to you.

Avoid being overly specific or making promises in your Handbook. You want your rules, policies, perks and benefits to apply to everyone. Putting procedures into writing and then following and enforcing these procedures not only creates cohesiveness among staff, it also provides employees with a clear path from disagreement to resolution.

Setting up a bulletproof Employee Handbook is simple.

Just don’t forget to collect a signed and dated acknowledgment form from every employee!