Q. I believe an employee policy manual is required for general contractors in California, and employees must sign off on having read it. But many Spanish-speaking workers don't read English. How do contractors handle this? Do they pay to have their manuals translated?

A.Richard Calenius, a senior professional in human resources who works in the San Francisco Bay area, responds: Actually, employee handbooks and policy manuals are not required in California, although they're a good way to communicate essential information and ensure consistency. But if at least 10 percent of employees speak a different primary language than English, employers must provide written information in that language on laws covered by the Fair Employment and Housing Act, including those concerning overall employment discrimination, pregnancy leave, California family/medical leave (if there are 50 or more employees), and sexual and disability discrimination.

It's always wise to keep an acknowledgement receipt on file indicating that an employee has received and read this information, perhaps as part of new-employee orientation. If a company that meets the 10 percent foreign-language threshold has an employee handbook or written company policy manual, only information in the handbook that's covered by the FEHA has to be translated.

Nonetheless, it would be a good idea to make the entire handbook available in that language, so all workers have accurate information about the law and company policies. Then, should there be a lawsuit or other third-party charge, the company can demonstrate that it took reasonable steps to inform employees of their rights.

Employment information in English and Spanish is available free from the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (www.dfeh.ca.gov). Translation services translate company documents for a fee; typically, they charge by the word.