There are two very different perspectives on California Employment Law.
From the workers’ perspective it is considered one of the most employee-friendly labor laws within the United States.
On the other hand, from the employers’ perspective there is a lot more to consider.
The California labor laws are quite prescriptive. This means it can be a time-consuming exercise to ensure compliance. In addition to the state labor laws being very complex, they are also constantly evolving within the State legislator and therefore a company’s administrative systems and practices must evolve too.
The problem is compounded for employers as there are also Federal Laws which must also be adhered to on top of the State Laws.
We recently spoke to Spates Fabricators, a client based in California. (You can read the case study here.)
When speaking with clients like Spates Fabricators, you get a real sense of the weight of the complex California Employment Law on such employers. Dennis Caplinger, Head of Special Projects, described how being compliant requires a lot of administrative heavy lifting by its Human Resources department.
We thought it would be helpful to highlight some aspects of California Employment Law that may be more time intensive to process.
California Law Challenges for Employers
California Equal Pay Act
Male and female employees in the same classification who perform the same quantity and quality of work are entitled to equal pay, unless pay differentials are based on bona fide factors such as seniority.
The minimum wage in California varies depending on the size of the employer.
- Small companies with a maximum of 25 employees must pay a minimum of $10.50 per hour.
- Employers with 26 or more employees must pay employees a minimum of $11.00 per hour.
There are three scenarios where an employer must pay overtime.
- All hours worked over the standard ’40-hour workweek’
- To employees that have worked more than eight hours in a workday.
- To employees that have worked a seventh consecutive day in a workweek.
The rate of overtime pay to eligible employees is one and a half times the employee’s regular rate of pay for all hours worked in excess as outlined above.
An employer must pay ‘double-time’, double the employee’s regular rate of pay for all hours worked in two scenarios.
- If an employee has worked in-excess of 12 hours in any workday
- And for all hours worked in-excess of eight on the seventh consecutive day of work in a workweek.
Under California Employment Law an employer must provide eligible employees with a paid 10-minute rest for each four-hour work period and this should be as close to the middle of the four-hour work period as possible.
An employee is entitled to one hour of pay for each workday that the rest period is not authorized or permitted.
An employer in California must provide eligible employees the following as a minimum:
- No less than a 30-minute meal period if they work more than five hours a day.
- A second meal period of no less than 30 minutes must be provided when the employee’s work period is more than 10 hours.
- One hour of pay for each shift that the meal period is not provided.
To ensure that an employer is complying and providing the legally-required meal break, they must:
- Relieve their employee of all duty
- Relinquish control of the employee’s activities, and
- Permit their employee a reasonable opportunity to take the entire 30-minute break uninterrupted.
The employer is required to enforce the taking of meal breaks or make checks to ensure no work is performed during the meal break. But they cannot restrict their employees from taking one.
A California employer must accommodate any mothers who need to express breast milk for the employee’s infant child. They are required to provide a reasonable amount of break time to do so.
When possible, this break time should coincide with any break time already provided to the employee, for example the Rest and Meal Breaks.
Employers must also provide the employee with the use of a room or discreet space other than a toilet stall. This area must be near the employee’s work space and the employee should feel they are going about their business in private.
Temporary Disability Insurance
Any worker who is unable to perform their regular work functions due to a non-work-related illness or injury, (including pregnancy and related conditions) will receive partial wage replacement under the California’s State Disability Insurance (SDI) program.
Paid Family Leave
The SDI program also provides paid family leave (PFL) under a Family Temporary Disability Insurance program. If eligible employees need to take time off to care for a dependent they will receive partial wage replacement. Eligible dependents include:
- Registered domestic partner
Employers cannot enforce a “use it or lose it” approach to their vacation policies.
Annual vacation accruals may be capped but may not be forfeited.
Unused, accrued vacation must be paid out at the end of employment.
The California Continuation Benefits Replacement Act (Cal-COBRA) requires employers and group health plans (with 2 to 19-member employees) to offer continuation coverage to qualified beneficiaries (employees and their dependents) if a qualifying event occurs.
Cal-COBRA also has a provision that requires group health plans to offer up to 18 months of continuation coverage to individuals who exhaust their coverage under the federal Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) if they are entitled to less than 36 months of continuation coverage under COBRA.
Wage Notice Requirements
The Wage Theft Prevention Act requires an employer to provide notice of certain pay related information to non-exempt employees at the time of hire and any time the information changes, such as
- the employee’s rate of pay
- the basis for such rate
- the employer’s regular pay period
- the name of the employer, etc.
If there is an overlap between federal, state and/or local law, the employer must adhere to the law that offers the greatest rights or benefits to the employee.
California Family Rights Act
The California Family Rights Act (CFRA) requires covered employers to provide eligible employees with job-protected leaves for qualifying reasons.
The state level CFRA and the federal level Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) mirror each other in most respects. The main areas of differentiation are for whom an employee may take leave for, the qualifying reasons for leave and what is considered a serious health condition.
Accordingly, a California employer must look at both laws when making family and medical leave decisions.
In addition to the CFRA, a California employer is also required to comply with more than a dozen other leave laws, such as:
- Pregnancy disability leave (covering employers with five or more employees)
- Family-School partnership leave (covering employers with 25 or more employees)
- School-required leave
- Paid sick and safe time
- Leave for organ and bone marrow donors (covering employers with 15 or more employees)
- Leave for victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking
- Crime victims’ leave
- Election/Voting leave
- Leave for jury duty and appearance as a witness
- Emergency responder leave (covering all employers for emergency responder duties, and employers with 50 or more employees for emergency responder training)
- Family military leave (covering employers with 25 or more employees)
- Drug and alcohol rehabilitation leave (covering employers with 25 or more employees)
- Civil air patrol leave (covering employers with 15 or more employees)
As stated previously, if there is an overlap between federal, state and/or local law, the employer must adhere to the law that offers the greatest rights or benefits to the employee.
California Occupational Safety and Health Act
Under the California Occupational Safety and Health Act, an employer is required to maintain a safe workplace for employees. To ensure this occurs, the employer must create and maintain a written, effective Injury and Illness Prevention Program. This document must include, among other things, instruction on how to carry out the various employee functions to ensure safe workplace practices.
The California Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act (Cal-WARN Act) provides employees and their families time to prepare for the unfortunate event of a prospective job loss. To this end, employers must provide adequate notice of a plant closing or mass layoff of staff.
Navigate California Employment Law with Mitrefinch Time & Attendance System
This is not a complete list of all the requirements for compliance with California Employment Law. We are highlighting these as areas that may take time for your HR department to process and maintain.
We know our Mitrefinch Time & Attendance system will help reduce the impact on your team. We’d be more than happy to have a conversation to explore the cost and time savings we could implement for your company. Why not get in touch today?