CA Labor Laws: Everything You Need to Know
In California, all employers are required to have posted certain information and notices in prominent places where all employees can see them. 7 min read
What Are the Labor Laws in CA?
CA labor laws refers to labor laws in the state of California. Employees in California are protected by federal and state laws throughout the employment process, from hiring through discharge. California is among the most employee-friendly states in the nation.
In addition to understanding employment law in California, HR professionals must create policies, ensure employees understand them, and manage hiring and termination actions, while also managing employee benefits.
Helping You Understand California Employment Law
If you need to know and understand the minimum compliance for any HR topic or simply want a better understanding of California employment law, then this is the right place for you.
First of all, employee handbooks are key when communicating policies and requirements for your employees and employment laws and HR policies.
In California, as well as in federal laws, all employers are required to have posted certain information and notices in prominent places where all employees can see them. Employers leave themselves open to being sued every time they take any employment action or when they fail to take the required actions.
Certain training is also required to be conducted according to federal and state laws. HR administrators need to educate themselves on all of California’s laws. This also needs to be communicated with employees.
California State Labor Laws
California labor lawsuits usually state that the employer violated one or more California state laws, including overtime pay issues, discrimination, and harassment.
California labor employment law protects the rights of California employees. Many new laws were implemented in 2014 to protect immigrants as well.
The California labor code protects overtime pay, mealtimes and rest breaks, tips, vacations, etc. California labor law also discusses requirements for wages to make sure workers on California public improvement projects are not underpaid.
California Minimum Wage and Overtime Laws
California’s current minimum wage rate is $10.50 for employers with 26 or more employees and $10.00 for employers with 25 or fewer employees. Employers are required to notify their employees at least seven days before any change in pay. They must provide notification via written notice.
Additionally, exempt employees can earn a monthly salary that is no less than two times the state minimum wage, per law. The minimum wage was increased to $10.50, at which point exempt employees will be earning $1,820.00 per month. Therefore, employers should review all their compensation for their exempt employees to make sure they are in compliance with the new California labor laws. Any employer who fails to pay the new minimum wage will be required to pay damages to the employees in addition to the existing penalties. Liquidated damages mean financial compensation that is given to an employee when they have a loss or injury resulting from the employer's failure to pay the minimum wage.
Employers are also required to pay overtime at a certain rate unless they are exempt from doing so. The overtime pay is equal to one and a half times the regular rate of pay. This is based on all hours worked in “excess of forty (40) hours in a workweek or eight (8) hours up to and including 12 hours in any workday, and for the first eight (8) hours worked on the seventh consecutive day of work in a workweek.” The overtime pay laws in California are unique to protect employees from working extensive hours.
There are differences between the state labor laws and the federal regulations for paid overtime, and specifically, employers often may either “accidentally or intentionally, incorrectly classify” employees if they want to not pay overtime wages. This violates California labor laws, however.
The federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and California laws determine the wages and per-hour standards required to be followed by employers. This includes minimum wage, overtime, and other wage issues. The minimum wage paid must be the highest applicable to employees between federal, state, or local laws. In California, employers are required to pay a $10.50 an hour, which is higher than the federal standard of $7.25. Employers must pay time and a half if employees work more than 40 hours in one week.
In addition, California has an overtime hour daily standard that says employers have to pay overtime to employees who work more than eight hours in a day, whether or not they also exceed 40 hours in a week. In California, workers are entitled to double time after they work 12 hours in one day.
California labor laws require that employers provide employees with a meal duration of not less than 30-minutes when they have worked for more than five consecutive hours. Unless the employee is relieved of all responsibilities in the course of the entire 30-minute meal duration and is away from the corporation’s premises, the meal period has to rely on hours labored and paid at the employee’s normal rate of pay.
California law lets employers provide an “on-duty” meal period when the nature of the work prevents the employee from being relieved of all duty. By using a written agreement between the employer and worker an on-duty meal period is agreed to.
CA Labor Code Section 512 states that:
- Certain non-exempt employees should be supplied with a 10-minute paid relaxation period for each 4 (four) hours labored or main fraction thereof.
- Insofar as is workable, the rest duration ought to be inside the middle of the worker’s shift.
- A rest length is not required for personnel whose overall per-day work time is less than 3 and one 1/2 (three 1/2) hours.
- The break length is counted as time worked, and consequently the organization should pay for such intervals.
The CA Dept. Of Industrial Relations: Rest Periods states:
· The California Labor Code § 226.7 prohibits employers from requiring personnel to work through meal or relaxation periods.
Employees can sue for violations of California meal and relaxation provisions. During a ten-hour workday, a worker must receive a 30-minute break. A meal can be waived via mutual consent of the agency and employee if the workday isn't any longer than six hours.
Individuals employed in agriculture and outside work including landscaping and farming are now legally entitled to enough rest breaks (minimum five minutes on an "as wished" basis) when temperatures exceed 85 degrees Fahrenheit. The regulation applies to everybody, inclusive of unlawful immigrants, who now have some rights and protections under Bill 263. Employers need to pay the employee one hour of pay as a penalty if a worker does not receive the right meal and rest periods.
California Laws Against Discrimination and Harassment
Under federal law, employers may not make employment decisions based on “race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), national origin, age (if the employee is at least 40 years old), disability, or genetic information.” This applies to everything from the job postings, to interviews, hiring decisions and promotions, benefits, pay, discipline, performance reviews, layoffs, and firings. Also, California employees are protected from discrimination based on marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity, medical condition, military status, political activities or affiliations, and status as a victim of domestic violence, assault, or stalking.
From a legal perspective, harassment is not welcome in the workplace and comments based on the recipient’s protected characteristics creates a hostile work environment. Sexual harassment is the most familiar type of harassment, but it could also be based on age, national origin, and other protected traits. The employer may not discipline, fire, or take other negative actions against you because you complain within the company, to a government agency, or in a lawsuit. SB 400, a new law, includes protections for victims of stalking.
California Workplace Safety Laws
California follows the Federal Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) that requires employers to provide a safe workplace free of known hazards. The workplace must be safe, and with healthy conditions, and equipment must be safe as well. Training is required for the specific industry. Employees have the right to request an OSHA inspection if they believe their employer has committed safety violations.
Employers cannot retaliate against employees who complain of unsafe or hazardous working conditions.
Workers’ Compensation in California
Employers in California are required to have workers’ compensation insurance. This insurance provides a percentage of an employee’s earnings, pays for medical treatments, and offers vocational rehabilitation.
Your Right to Time Off Work in California
Many employers voluntarily offer their employees paid leave, such as vacation time, sick days, holidays, or paid time off (PTO) benefits.
Per law, employees can take paid sick leave and are able to take advantage of certain insurance programs that will pay them while they are off work. They have a legal right to take unpaid leave for many reasons. Paid sick leave must be given to employees of California employers when they have worked for at least 30 days over the past year.
In California, employees accrue one hour of paid sick time for every 30 hours they work, up to a total of 48 hours or six days off. California employers can also put a limit on employees’ use of sick leave for up to 24 hours per year. Sick leave is available both for the employees’ own illness or preventive care and to care for a family member. California is one of a handful of states that has a paid temporary disability program, and this is funded with payroll deductions from employee paychecks. Eligible employees can get 55 percent of their usual paycheck, untaxed, while they are temporarily unable to work due to disability. This program will also pay employees up to six weeks of leave for the birth of a new child or for caring for a seriously ill family member.
The federal Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) and California military leave law both state that employers must let employees take leave from work for federal or state military service or duty. Employees have to be reinstated after they return from leave and cannot be discriminated against based on their service. California law gives employees’ rights for up to 17 days of work per year for military training, encampments, exercises, and similar activities.
Further, FMLA and the CFRA say that employers with at least 50 employees have to offer up to 12 weeks of unpaid time off per year for illnesses and to give care to family members. FMLA lets employees take up to 26 weeks off per one year to care for a family member
If you need help with any issues surrounding labor laws in California, you can post your legal need on UpCounsel’s marketplace. UpCounsel accepts only the top 5 percent of lawyers to its site. Lawyers on UpCounsel come from law schools such as Harvard Law and Yale Law and average 14 years of legal experience, including work with or on behalf of companies like Google, Stripe, and Twilio.