California Labor Laws (2024 Guide For Employers)

For California employers, understanding state law can feel overwhelming.

Whether it’s wage rates and work time or workers’ compensation and the state minimum wage, there is plenty you must know to comply with both state and federal law.

  • Feeling confused about California’s minimum wage, sick leave policies, or rest break requirements?
  • Unsure if overtime laws apply to you, or stressed about navigating complex issues like meal breaks and time off?

California’s intricate (and somewhat convoluted) web of employment laws can leave even the most informed employee or employer scratching their heads.

But don’t panic!

This guide aims to help you make sense of California labor law.

This article is for:

  • HR professionals looking to understand the nuances of specific laws.
  • Business owners trying to build a better understanding of their labor obligations.

When equipped with the right knowledge, it’s easy to comply with the California labor code.

Disclaimer: Despite our best efforts to provide you with accurate information on this topic at the time of writing, we cannot guarantee the accuracy of the content at the time of reading. This blog post is for informational purposes only and should not be considered legal advice. Consult an attorney for specific guidance on California labor laws.

California Wage Laws

California has some of the most employee-friendly labor laws in the nation. Let’s delve into some key aspects of California wage laws, including minimum wage, payment regulations, overtime, breaks, and leave requirements.

Minimum Wage

California boasts the highest minimum wage in the nation. As of January 1, 2024, all employers, regardless of size, must pay their employees a minimum of $16.00 per hour.

This represents a significant increase from previous years, solidifying California’s commitment to fair compensation for workers.

Equal Pay

The Fair Pay Act, a cornerstone of California labor law, mandates equal pay for equal work.

This means that employers cannot discriminate in wages based on an employee’s gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or other protected characteristics.

If employees perform substantially similar work under similar conditions, they must be compensated equally, regardless of these factors.

Wage Theft

California takes wage theft seriously.

This includes any instance where an employer withholds earned wages from an employee, fails to pay proper overtime, or makes illegal deductions from their paycheck.

The state enforces strong penalties for wage theft violations, protecting workers from unfair and exploitative practices.

California Payment Laws

Pay Periods

Most non-exempt employees must be paid twice a month, with specific deadlines depending on the industry.

Most non-exempt employees in California must be paid twice a month.

The specific deadlines for receiving payment vary depending on the industry and how employees are paid (e.g., by check or direct deposit).

Employees should be notified of their pay schedule in writing upon hire and consult with the California Department of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE) for details specific to their industry.

Final Paycheck

Upon termination of employment, California law mandates that employers issue final paychecks to their former employees promptly. The timeframe for receiving this final paycheck depends on the reason for termination, but it generally cannot exceed 72 hours for a layoff or termination without cause.

New Law

As of January 1, 2024, a new law requires all California employers to provide their employees with paid sick leave. Employees accrue paid sick leave at a rate of one hour for every 30 hours worked. This allows them to take time off to address their own health needs or care for a sick family member without sacrificing income.

California Overtime Laws

Overtime laws are in place to ensure that employees are fairly compensated for working extended hours.

In California, non-exempt employees who work more than eight hours in a workday or 40 hours in a workweek are entitled to overtime pay.

This means they must be paid “time and a half” for exceeding these limits. The rate goes up even further for extreme hours – employees working over 12 hours in a single day or more than eight hours on their seventh consecutive workday are entitled to “double time” for those extra hours.

California Break Laws

Rest Breaks

Employers must provide non-exempt employees with a 10-minute rest period for every four hours worked.

Meal Breaks

Employees working more than five hours in a day must be given a 30-minute uninterrupted meal break.

Breastfeeding Breaks

California law grants new mothers the right to take frequent breastfeeding breaks during working hours.

California Leave Requirements

California Family Rights Act (CFRA)

Employers with 50 or more employees must comply with CFRA, which allows eligible employees to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for various reasons, including caring for a newborn or sick family member.

Healthy Families Act (HFA)

This law provides paid family leave for bonding with a new child, caring for a seriously ill family member, or taking medical leave for a serious health condition.

New Law

Effective January 1, 2024, California offers reproductive loss leave, allowing employees to take up to six weeks of unpaid leave after a miscarriage or failed adoption.

Bereavement Leave

California law mandates employers with 25 or more employees to provide up to five days of unpaid bereavement leave upon the death of a close family member.

Child Labor Laws in California

Hazardous Work

California strictly regulates child labor in hazardous occupations, protecting young workers from potential harm.

Work Permits

Minors seeking employment require work permits, with specific regulations on work hours and prohibited occupations based on their age.

California Hiring Laws

Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA)

This law prohibits discrimination in the workplace based on various protected characteristics, including race, gender, religion, and disability.

Criminal History

California limits employers’ ability to inquire about or use an applicant’s criminal history in making hiring decisions.

Drug Testing

While legal, drug testing must comply with specific state regulations and cannot be used to discriminate against applicants or employees.

California Termination Laws

At-Will Employment

California adheres to the “at-will” employment doctrine, meaning both employers and employees can terminate the employment relationship at any time, with or without cause.

Wrongful Termination

However, exceptions exist for wrongful termination, where an employee is fired for illegal reasons, such as discrimination or retaliation for exercising legal rights.

Occupational Safety in California

California Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)

Cal/OSHA enforces workplace safety and health regulations, ensuring safe working conditions for all employees.

Reporting Injuries

Employers are required to report workplace injuries and illnesses to Cal/OSHA.

Disclaimer: Not Legal Advice

This blog post provides a general overview of California labor laws but does not constitute legal advice. Laws and regulations are subject to change, and there may be additional requirements or exemptions that apply to specific situations. Employers and employees should consult a qualified labor law attorney for advice on their specific circumstances.

If you have any questions about your rights or obligations as an employer or employee in California, it is essential to consult with a labor law attorney to receive accurate information and guidance tailored to your situation. By seeking professional legal advice, you can ensure that you are taking the appropriate steps to comply with labor laws and protect your rights.

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