California Employment Law: Everything You Need to Know
California employers with five or more employees must comply with the law. And all employers have a duty to stop harassment when they recognize it. 5 min read
California Employment Law
Per federal law and California employment law, employers cannot make employment decisions based on race, religion, sex (including pregnancy), national origin, age (if the employee is at least 40 years old), disability, or genetic information. This applies to employers with at least 15 employees.
California's state law prohibits discrimination from job postings, interviews, hiring decisions, and promotions. It also prohibits discrimination for:
- Performance reviews
The state of California adds these criteria:
- Marital status
- Sexual orientation
- Gender identity
- Medical condition
- Military status
- Political activities or affiliations
- Victim of domestic abuse, violence, and stalking
California employers with five or more employees must comply with the law. And all employers have a duty to stop harassment when they recognize it.
Harassment falls under the heading of unwelcome workplace comments or conduct based on the targeted individual's protected characteristic. Sexual harassment is the most common, but people can be targeted based on their race, age, country of origin, and personal traits.
An employer cannot fire an employee for filing a complaint with a government agency on a local, state, or federal level, or initiating a lawsuit.
California Workplace Safety Laws
The federal Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) requires employers to provide a safe workplace that's free from known hazards and are safe and healthy for the employee. Any relevant safety equipment and training is to be provided by the employer.
In the event an employee feels the employer is violating OSHA laws, they can request an investigation by the department. An employer cannot fire or retaliate against an employee who has called in an inspector from OSHA to look for safety violations.
Workers' Compensation in California
A majority of employers in California are required by law to carry workers' compensation insurance. Workers' compensation provides employees with a calculated amount of average wages, pays for needed medical treatment, and provides rehabilitation along with benefits related to the injury.
California Minimum Wage and Overtime Laws
California has passed a law that took place on January 1, 2017, that sets the minimum wage at $10.50 per hour for companies with 26 or more employees. Businesses with less than 26 employees can pay the state minimum wage of $10 per hour.
Under FLSA and California law, employers are required to pay employees time and a half if they are working more than 40 hours in a single week. California has a daily overtime standard that requires employers to pay overtime to eligible employees who work more than eight hours in one day regardless if they go over 40 hours in a single week. California employees are entitled to double time pay if they work 12 hours in one day. An employee who works seven days in a single week gets time and a half for the seventh day, or double time for working more than eight hours on the seventh day.
Not all employees are entitled to earn overtime. Someone who is considered an exempt employee is not eligible for overtime pay.
Your Right to Time Off Work in California
Some employers offer employees a benefit in the form of paid leave that includes sick days, vacation time, or paid time off benefits. All employers must provide paid sick leave to employees who have worked for at least 30 days in the last year. Employees can accumulate one hour of paid sick time for each 30 hours they work and can earn up to 48 hours or six days off. Employers can limit sick time leave to 24 hours each year.
Sick leave is offered to employees for their own personal use or for taking care of another family member in need of care. California also has social programs that offer paid benefits to employees while they are unable to work. Eligible employees can collect up to 55% of their average paycheck while they are unable to work due to a temporary disability or pregnancy. The program pays employees for up to six weeks of leave while bonding with a new child or taking care of a seriously ill family member. California requires employers to offer unpaid leave under these circumstances:
- Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA)
- Military family leave
- Family and medical leave
- Domestic violence leave
- Time off for school activities
- Jury duty
The federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and the California Family Rights Act (CFRA) require employers with a minimum of 50 employees to give eligible employees up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave every year for illness and caregiving of family members. The FMLA gives employees up to 26 weeks off to take care of a family member who was seriously injured while on active military duty.
Military family leave in California gives employees the right to take time off while a spouse is on leave from their deployment.
California law requires employers to allow employees to take time off work while they are pregnant, disabled by childbirth, and other pregnancy related conditions.
Meals and Breaks
California law requires employers to provide their employees with a meal break of no less than 30 minutes when they work more than five consecutive hours and more than six in the motion picture industry. In the event the employee is not allowed to leave during the 30 minute period, the period is to be counted as hours worked and has to be paid at the employee's normal rate of pay. State law only allows employers to provide an "on duty" meal break when the work prevents the employee from being relieved of their duty, and if there's a written agreement between the employer and employee.
A rest period is not required for employees who total work time for the day is less than 3 1/2 hours.
Job Termination in California
If an employee is laid off or loses their job under circumstances that they had no fault in causing, they may qualify for unemployment benefits. These benefits pay a percentage of the previous earnings for up to 26 weeks while the employee seeks a new job.
An employee can extend their health insurance coverage through COBRA or can purchase a policy through the ACA exchange as job loss is a qualifying event to get health insurance outside of the enrollment period.
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