California Employment Law Issues — Common Mistakes to Avoid: Part Two


The tapestry of California and federal employment laws is interwoven and complex.  This can make it difficult for employers to maintain full compliance and avoid the consequences of missteps.  Part one of this two-part blog series discussed five common California employment law mistakes and how to mitigate them.  Here, we will highlight five more California employment law issues to help you stay above the fray.

This blog provides an overview of these issues; however, consulting with an attorney about your specific employment law matters is the best way to ensure compliance and protect your company or organization. Susan A. Rodriguez is an experienced employer defense lawyer in Southern California. She can provide an assessment and recommendations tailored to your unique needs and goals.

Identifying and Mitigating California Employment Law Issues

The first installment of this series detailed these employment law mistakes employers should strive to avoid — from the hiring process forward:

  • Asking prohibited questions in the hiring process.
  • Misclassifying employees.
  • Neglecting to provide the human resources department with the tools and resources needed.
  • Failing to make reasonable accommodations for employees with disabilities.
  • Not complying with local ordinances.

This blog explores five more issues California employers can proactively work to prevent.

Failing to Maintain Updated California Employment Policies and Procedures

When did your business or organization last review and revise your employee handbook?  How about other documents formalizing your official policies and procedures?  It is common for the California State Assembly to make changes to employment laws each year, so an annual review of these documents is recommended.

When the review is performed, these questions should be considered:

  • Do the documents meet the goal of protecting employees and the company?
  • Have new laws been enacted that necessitate changes to maintain compliance?
  • Has the company changed in any way (size, organizational structure) that needs to be reflected?
  • Is there a definitive document that is known to be the official, up-to-date version (rather than multiple versions that may cause confusion)?
  • Have technical changes like new software or updates occurred that need to be reflected?
  • Does your handbook imply or confer employee rights or entitlements that are no longer required or that you no longer wish to offer voluntarily?

Reviewing and updating California employment policies with these issues in mind, then ensuring that the policies and procedures are closely followed throughout the organization, can prevent new employment complaints from arising and bolster your defense if frivolous claims are filed.  Due to the complex nature of California employment law issues, it is advisable to work with a knowledgeable employer defense lawyer who can identify potential risks and tailor your policies, procedures and handbook accordingly.

California Wage and Hour Errors and Violations

In addition to employee misclassification, many situations can lead to allegations of wage and hour violations in California.  Employers must ensure they are paying the minimum wage required by the state as well as any local ordinances.  Nonexempt employees must be paid overtime at the appropriate rate.  Employees should not be permitted to work “off-the-clock” and should be compensated for meal and rest breaks according to the law.

Employers must avoid delayed wage payments and taking prohibited deductions from employee pay.  Paid sick leave must be provided to eligible employees and paid as the law and local ordinances set forth.  Wage statements and records also must follow certain guidelines, and employee notices must be posted when required.

Because a variety of laws and regulations govern wage and hour requirements, it is wise to consult with an experienced California employer attorney who can review your practices and make recommendations to ensure compliance in these areas and others.

California Employment Law Issues: Unequal Treatment and Discrimination

Allegations of discrimination or unequal treatment can cause legal battles and lead to financial penalties and damage to a company’s reputation.  California employers must comply with the Federal Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) laws, the California Equal Pay Act and the California Family Rights Act, among other regulations.

Variations in how these laws apply and the characteristics protected under each law, in addition to changes made through new legislation or executive orders, can make it difficult to maintain compliance in this area.  Employers must be vigilant in maintaining and following appropriate employment procedures to avoid these California employment law issues and better defend themselves when allegations arise.

Noncompliance with Safety and Workers’ Compensation Regulations

Under Section 3700.5 of the California Labor Code, it is a misdemeanor criminal offense for an employer not to have workers’ compensation coverage if it is required by law to have it in place.  This applies even if the employer’s business operation has minimal risk of employee injury.  Workers’ compensation is like any other insurance — you carry it and hope you never need it.  

California’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health, or Cal/OSHA, requires employers to provide all employees with a safe and healthy workplace.   Employee rights under Cal/OSHA regulations include the right to proper training and protective gear.  Employers are required to post warnings about potentially unsafe conditions or potential exposures to hazardous materials.  Employees may make a confidential request for an OSHA inspection and have the right to file a complaint if they believe a violation exists.  Workers are also permitted to refuse to perform work that they deem unsafe.

California also requires employers to maintain an Injury and Illness Prevention (IIP) Program, with a new requirement to implement a workplace violence prevention program within the company injury prevention program effective July 1, 2024.

California Employment Law Mistakes and Missteps in Employee Terminations

While California is an “at-will” employment state, allegations of retaliation and wrongful termination are still common.  Employers can be proactive in protecting themselves from these kinds of claims in the following ways:

  • Document performance or behavioral problems and record all investigations and disciplinary actions.
  • Review the employee’s file and any contracts or agreements thoroughly before proceeding with a termination.
  • Provide the employee with a truthful, legitimate explanation for the termination; this explanation should be conveyed in a considerate and respectful manner.
  • Follow all company policies in the decision to terminate and in the termination process.
  • Timely pay the employee’s final wages.

These steps will help protect your company from claims of wrongful termination or retaliation, although they may not eliminate the threat of allegations entirely.  If you need help defending against wrongful termination in California, it is important to begin working with an employer defense lawyer who can help investigate and build your defense as soon as possible.

Contact Susan A. Rodriguez, an Employer Defense Lawyer in Southern California

A proactive approach can help employers avoid the hassles and consequences of mistakes related to these California employment law issues.  Susan A. Rodriguez at the Law Offices of Susan A. Rodriguez in Los Angeles has been helping employers take the appropriate steps to ensure legal compliance and defend against allegations when they occur for many years.  Schedule a consultation to discuss your employment law needs by calling (213) 943-1323 or completing this online contact form.

Posted by Susan A. Rodriguez, Esq.

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For legal advice, contact an attorney at  Law Offices of Susan A. Rodriguez, APC  or an attorney actively practicing in your jurisdiction.