Managing Employees in California: Three Legal Minefields

Golden Gate Bridge

Those managing employees in California know all too well the legal minefields they have to carefully navigate through each day. California is known as perhaps the most “employee-friendly” state in the nation with good reason, as its state legislature, agencies and courts continue to impose additional burdens on employers and expand the rights of employees.

And what employers may not realize is that the Golden State does not care where an employer is located but where their employees are working. In other words, an employer who is not physically based in California but who manages employees who work within the state must also keep up with the state’s complex and ever-changing employment laws and how they impact day-to-day operations and policies. Here are three ways why it is more difficult to manage employees in California than anywhere else:

1.      Most Employment Laws in the Country

It shouldn’t come as a shock that California has the most employment laws in the country and that number continues to rise each year. For example, in 2014 alone, California passed 21 new laws that affect employers and the rights of their employees. As a result, California employers are constantly playing catch-up to try to determine how to comply with new state laws. In fact, because California laws and regulations are so generous in their grant of rights and benefits to employees, they often supersede federal laws that address the same subject. Therefore, understanding the interplay between federal and California law and their compliance obligations under both are critical for HR. In addition, California regulations are subject to enforcement by at least six different state agencies while other states are usually subject to two or three state agencies. So not only do California employers have comply with what is coming from the governor’s desk but also with actions coming from numerous state regulatory agencies. No wonder managing employees in California is so complicated!

2.      Employee Leaves

While most states have two or three required leaves of absence, California requires that employees working in California be provided at least 20(!) leaves of absence. While eligibility for some of these leaves of absence hinges on the number of employees an employer has, industry type and an employee’s length of service, California is still by far the most generous state in the leave area. Here are some leaves required by law to name a few:

  • Leave for emergency rescue personnel;
  • Leave for spouses of deployed military personnel;
  • Leave to attend school activities; and
  • Leave for domestic violence or stalking victims.

However, no leave has garnered as much attention and confusion as the new California paid sick leave law. Under the Healthy Workplaces, Health Families Act of 2014, all California employers must provide paid sick leave to any employees who has worked in California for 30 days within a year after the start of employment. And for those with employees in Los Angeles, Long Beach, Oakland, San Francisco and Emeryville, they must comply with those sick leave laws as well.

3.      Required Training

California-based employers as well as those with employees in California are kept busy with strict training requirements that aim to protect employees within and outside the workplace facility. For example, employers with 50 or more employees must now provide supervisors working in California with an abusive conduct prevention component added to the previously mandated sexual harassment prevention training requirements. As some HR professionals may know, California has strict requirements as to how sexual harassment prevention training is offered, by whom it is offered and what must be included in the training. In addition, California employers must also provide safety training and create an Injury and Illness Prevention Program (IIPP) that contains a plan to keep employees free from work-related injuries and illnesses. Employers must also train their employees about emergency action plans, fire prevention, as well as repetitive motion injuries or ergonomics. Notably, California also requires employee and supervisor training on heat illness, including personal risk factors, heat illness symptoms and the importance of water consumption.

Comply With All California Employment Laws

Of course, there are many more unique California requirements, e.g., generous meal and rest breaks, as well as discrimination protections for undocumented workers. What California employment law is having the biggest impact on your organization? Let us know by leaving a comment below. And in the meantime, check out several other notable California employment laws.


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One Response to Managing Employees in California: Three Legal Minefields

  1. Avatar
    October 30, 2015 at 4:17 pm #

    If you only have 1 employee (remote) in CA, do you still need to do the sexual harassment training or is it based on 50 employees in the state of CA? Thank you!