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Is Your Business Compliant With California Employment and Labor Laws?

May 12, 2017



As I pointed out in one of my earlier posts, California has some of the strictest employment and labor laws in the country; laws that are extremely pro-employee. Many businesses overlook the complexity of these laws until its too late, and they are sued for unpaid benefits, failing to provide mandatory rest and meal periods, or any number of other issues that are increasingly showing up in California's courts. If you are a business owner (or an employee) and are unsure if your company's labor practices are compliant with the law, take a look at this summary I have provided. 


Laws Against Harassment and Discrimination


Federal law forbids California employers from making decisions in the employment context based on sex, race, color, nationality, age (when the employee is at least 40 years of age), religion, disability or genetics. These laws apply to employers with at least fifteen employees (and for age discrimination, employers with at least 20 employees). 


These federal laws forbid discrimination in every aspect of employment and labor, from job listings, interviews, hiring decisions and promotions, layoffs/firing, and pay and discipline. You can see more on the federal employment discrimination laws here: https://www.eeoc.gov/laws/statutes/index.cfm.


California employees are also protected from discrimination based on these traits by California legislation. Further, California employees are protected from discrimination based on gender identity, marital status, sexual orientation, medical conditions, military status, political affiliations or activities, and even status as a victim of domestic violence, assault, or stalking. These California laws apply to employers with five or more employees (all California employers, regardless of size, have an affirmative duty to prevent harassment).


Workplace harassment based on any of these traits is illegal as well. Legally, harassment is defined as unwelcome workplace conduct or comments, based on the victim’s protected characteristic(s), which creates a hostile work environment or forces the victim to endure this behavior as a condition of employment. 


Workplace Safety


The federal Occupational Safety and Health Act requires employers in all states, including California, to provide a safe work environment that is free from known safety hazards. Employers must provide safe and healthy work conditions, while ensuring employees have safety equipment and training that may be required in their industry. 


Employees may request an Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) inspection if they feel their employer has violated any of these requirements. 


Minimum Wage and Overtime


The federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and California law set the wage and hour requirements that employers must follow, including minimum wage, overtime, and other wage protections. These laws require that employers pay at least the specified minimum wage applicable to their employees on the federal, state, and local level. The federal minimum wage is currently $7.25 per hour, while California’s minimum wage is currently $10.50 per hour (to be at least $15 per hour by 2022). Employers must pay their employees the highest minimum wage that applies. 


Both the FLSA and California law require employers to pay employees time and a half if they work more than 40 hours in a week. California also has a daily overtime standard that requires employers to pay overtime to eligible employees that work more than eight hours in a day, regardless of whether they exceed 40 hours in a week. Further, California employees are entitled to double time when they work at least 12 hours in a single day. However, not all California employees are entitled to earn overtime. If an employee falls within an exception to the overtime laws (e.g., salaried manager as defined by CA law), that employee is an exempt employee. 


If you’d like to learn more about these complex CA laws, check out the  California Department of Industrial Relations website. For more on the FLSA, check out the Wage and Hour Division website. 


Time Off Work in California


Many, if not most, employers offer employees paid leave (e.g., vacation time, sick days, holidays, etc.) benefits. In most states, benefits like these is discretionary for the employer. California, however, mandates that employers allow for paid sick leave and to allow for certain insurance programs to provide paid time off work. 


Paid Sick Leave


All CA employers are required to provide paid sick leave for employees who have worked for at least 30 days in the past year. Further, employees accrue one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours they work, up to a maximum of 48 hours or six days off of work. Employers, however, may limit the amount of paid sick leave employees take to 24 hours, or three days. This paid sick leave is available for both the employee’s own illness, or for the employee to take care of an ill family member. 


Paid Disability & Family Leave


California has a paid temporary disability program that is funded by payroll withholdings. Employees that are eligible for this program may collect 55% of their usual pay, which is untaxed, while they are deemed temporarily disabled. This same program pays employees for up to a maximum of six weeks of leave while the employee cares for a new child or a seriously ill family member. 


Unpaid Leave


In California, employers must provide some unpaid leave for the following:


  • Military Leave

  • Family and Medical Leave

  • Military Family Leave

  • Pregnancy Disability Leave

  • Domestic Violence Leave

  • Time Off For School Activity

  • Voting

  • Jury Duty


Job Termination


Generally, California employees are at-will employees, meaning they can resign or be terminated at any time for any reason that is not illegal (e.g., discrimination, illness, etc.).


If you have questions or concerns about your policies with your employees, it is important to speak with a California employment attorney. 


About the Author:




Dallas P. Verhagen is a business attorney and a partner at Verhagen | Bennett LLP.  To learn more about Dallas, please click here.


For questions or comments about this post, please email Dallas directly at: Dallas@VerhagenBennett.com


To make suggestions about future posts, please email:  Info@VerhagenBennett.com


© 2017 Dallas P. Verhagen — This article is for general information only. The information presented should not be construed to be formal legal advice nor the formation of a lawyer/client relationship.