Many family offices have a small staff of people who wear many hats for the office and who work collaboratively to aid in the office operation. Due to the small size of the office and the broad job duties of staff members, it is likely that the office does not have anyone specifically trained on employment laws and issues.
When the number of employees in family offices is small, and everyone seems to be getting along, the family office leadership often does not realize that they still have a need for standard employment documents and policies to protect themselves and the family from potential litigation and information exposure if something goes wrong down the road. And family offices that do have standard employment documents may not realize in their busy environment that these documents need to be updated as employment laws change over the years.
Certainly, no one ever thinks that they will be sued by an employee, but we are living in a litigious society where employment lawsuits are often filed, especially after an employee is terminated from a job. Ask any attorney who defends employers in litigation matters, and they will tell you that it is important for the employer to show that it followed all applicable employment laws, that employees were treated fairly and consistently and that employees received the necessary information and communications.
In a litigation situation, how would the family office demonstrate that those conditions were met? The courts typically consider and look to the same set of documents in most employment cases, including the organization’s employee handbook and the plaintiff’s employment application, offer letter, written job description, evidence of receipt of employee handbook, and performance reviews. The best way to defend the office and its leaders is to be able to produce these completed, legible documents and a current, legally-compliant, employee handbook.
In addition to the documents listed above, a family office needs another important employment document – a well-drafted confidentiality agreement. This document is vital to protecting the family’s privacy and sensitive information. Everyone who works in or with the family office must sign one, including family members.
If your family office currently does not use all of the documents mentioned above, now is the time to reach out to your attorney to create the ones you are missing. If your office has not made use of standard employment documents up to this point, ask your attorney about purchasing Warner’s HR Starter Kit, which creates, for a fixed price, these essential documents for your family office:
A Michigan employment application.
An offer letter template for new employees.
An employee handbook, complete with standard policies and custom policies (based on a questionnaire completed by your family office).
An employee handbook acknowledgement form.
A confidentiality agreement template.
Our Private Client and Family Office Practice Group includes top labor and employment attorneys that work with family offices of all sizes and complexity levels. If you need employment documents updated or drafted, have concerns about your current employment procedures or would like additional training in employment procedures or issues for the office, the family or the family’s businesses, please contact your Warner attorney or Jonathan Kok at firstname.lastname@example.org (616.752.2487).