It’s important to stay up to date on all of the employment laws in your state so that you can maintain compliance in your business. We did some of the hard work for you and put some of the most important California labor laws in one place so you can either learn them for the first time or give yourself a refresher. 

However, remember that our summary is not qualified legal advice, laws are always subject to change, and they can vary from municipality to municipality. 

It’s up to you to make sure you’re compliant with all laws and statutes in your area. Consult with a qualified lawyer and/or your local government agencies if you have questions or concerns. 

Here are a few employment laws every California small business owner should know.


First, here are a few helpful links and resources for you to bookmark and refer back to:


  • Sick Days: California law requires employers to provide paid sick leave to most employees who have worked for 30 or more days. 
    • Employees are to accrue one hour of sick leave for every 30 hours worked, starting on their first day. Accrued sick leave must be allowed to be carried over from one year to the next, but employers can cap an employee’s total accrued sick leave at 48 hours. 
  • Paid Family Leave: Effective July 1, 2020, the maximum duration of Paid Family Leave benefits an individual can receive will be increased from six to eight weeks.
  • Medical Leave: No statute 
  • Vacation Days: No statute, but if an employer does establish a paid vacation policy, all unused vacation days must be paid out to an employee upon separation from employment. 
  • Jury Duty: Employers are not required to pay an employee for time used to comply with a jury summons. 
    • An employer may not penalize an employee for taking time off to comply with a jury summons if reasonable notice is given. 
    • Employees may use vacation time or personal leave, if available, for time taken responding to a jury summons. 
  • Holiday Leave: No statute
  • Voting Leave: Employers are required to give employees up to two hours of time off to vote. 
    • Employees must give employers at least three days notice of their intention to take time off to vote. 
  • Bereavement Leave: No statute 

Final Paycheck

  • If an employee is discharged by the employer, the employer must pay all wages due at the time of the termination. 
  • If an employee quits with at least 72 hours notice, the employer must pay all wages due at the time of quitting. 
  • If an employee does not give at least 72 hours notice, the employer has 72 hours after the time of quitting to pay all wages due. 

Tipped Wages

  • There is no reduced minimum wage rate for tipped employees. They must be paid the standard minimum wage for hours worked. 
  • Tips are considered to be the sole property of the employees. Employers are not allowed to take deduct from them in any way, and they must give employees credit card tips no later than the first payday after the customer paid the tip. 
  • Employers are allowed to require tip pooling, which consists of collecting all or part of tips received by employees into a pool and then redistributing them to employees based on a predetermined set of factors. 

Minimum Wage

  • The current minimum wage is $13 an hour for employers with 26 or more employees, and $12 an hour for employers with 25 or fewer employees. 
  • The minimum wage is set to increase over the next several years, with an increase to $14 an hour in 2021, and $15 an hour in 2022. 
  • The minimum salary in California is $49,920 annually for employers with 25 or fewer employees and $54,080 annually for employers of 26 or more employees.

Child Labor

  • Youth under the age of 18 must have a permit to work. 
  • Youth 12 and 13 years old are generally only allowed to work on school holidays and during school vacation. They may not work on any school day, either before or after classes. 
  • Fourteen and 15 year olds are also restricted on what times they can work and what kinds of jobs they can take. They are prohibited from taking any positions in manufacturing, workshops or factories, any position that requires working with machinery, on a railroad, and more. 
  • Employers are not allowed to employ 16 and 17 year olds in any position that is determined to be hazardous according to the Code of Federal Regulations

Meal and Rest Breaks, Overtime

  • Employers are required to provide no less than a 30-minute meal break during a shift that is longer than 5 consecutive hours. 
  • The meal break must be counted as hours worked and paid at the regular rate of pay unless the employee is relieved of all duties and is free to leave the premises. 
  • Certain employees who are non-exempt must be given a paid 10-minute rest period for every four hours of work. 
  • Employers must pay overtime to employees who are not exempt at the rate of one and a half times the employee’s regular wage for all hours worked in excess of 40 hours in a workweek or eight hours up to and including 12 hours in any workday, and for the first eight hours on the 7th consecutive workday.
  • Employers must pay two times the regular rate for hours worked in excess of 12 hours in any workday and for any hours worked in excess of eight on the 7th consecutive day of work. 

Employment Discrimination

  • Under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act, it is illegal for employers to discriminate due to race, religion, color, national origin, ancestry, physical disability, mental disability, medical condition, genetic information, marital status, gender, gender identity and expression, age, sexual orientation, and veteran status. 
  • Read our blog to find out what you can and cannot ask during a job interview according to federal law.
  • Effective on January 1, 2020, SB 188 will expand the definition of race under the FEHA to prohibit racial discrimination and harassment based upon a person’s natural hairstyle.


California is an “at-will employment” state, which means that without a written employee contract, employees can be terminated for any reason at any time. 

Shift Scheduling

The Reporting Time Pay Law requires employers to pay employees “reporting time” pay when an employee reports for work at a scheduled time but is not put to work or is given less than half of a usual shift.

Independent Contractor ABC Test

A worker may be classified as an independent contractor only if all of the following elements are satisfied:

  • The person if free from the control and direction of the hiring entity in connection with the performance of the work, both under the contract for the performance of the work and in fact.
  • The person performs work that is outside the usual course of the hiring entity’s business.
  • The person is customarily engaged in an independently established trade, occupation, or business of the same nature as that involved in the work performed.

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