Federal and California Employment Laws: A Review

There is a saying in the California HR-world: if you can manage human resources in California, you can manage human resources anywhere. California has the most employment laws in the country and they continue to increase, year after year. This article provides a cursory overview of both California, and federal, employment laws.

Federal Labor Laws

There are essentially 11 core laws that apply to all organizations regardless of size in the United States. They will be explained briefly below:

1. FLSA – Fair Labor and Standards Act

2 & 3. Wagner and Taft-Hartley Acts (NLRA and Labor Management Relations)

4. Consumer Credit Protection

5. ERISA – Employee Retirement Income Security Act

6 & 7. FICA and Social Security

8. EPPA – Employee Polygraph Protection Act

9. USERRA – Uniform Services Employment and Re-employment Rights Act

10. IRCA – Immigration Reform and Controls Act

11. EEOC – Uniform Guidelines for Employee Selection

Virtually all employers in the United States are subject to these laws and in some instances, California has added to them.

1. FLSA guides work hours and wages. California has made modifications to FLSA specific to breaks, minimum wage and overtime.

2 and 3. Both the Wagner and Taft Hartley Acts address and regulate union activities. Please note that the NLRA applies to all businesses and the rights of employee behavior, whether a union is present or not.

4. The Consumer Credit Protection act addresses use of credit information and employment. Again, California has added to this.

5. ERISA addresses retirement.

6 and 7. FICA and Social Security are in regards to federal deductions.

8. The use of polygraphs is greatly discouraged and illegal in most instances. There are specific rules involved in the legal application of polygraphs and the documentation required.

9. USERRA addresses the rights of veterans and military people in the workforce.

10. IRCA has recently updated the I-9 form as of March 8, 2013.

11. Uniform Guidelines for Employee Selection (EEOC) address the interviewing and hiring of individuals.

Additionally, employers must comply with laws relating to workers’ compensation, child labor Laws, employee safety-OSHA, Independent Contractors, Posters/Notices (Federal and State), and Privacy Laws (Federal and State).

California Employment Laws

In addition to these laws, California has its own extensive list of regulations. The following applies to ALL California employers, regardless of employee size. The explanation of each law is beyond the scope of this article, but it should provide HR professionals a guideline to research any California-specific laws they may be unfamiliar with.

  • Unemployment Insurance (EDD)
  • New Employee Reporting (EDD)
  • Parent’s Leave for Children Suspended From School
  • Crime Victim’s Leave
  • Disability Insurance- PFL/FTDI/SDI
  • Military Leave
  • Volunteer Civil Service Leave
  • Election Leave
  • Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Victim Leave
  • FEHA/harassment
  • Kin Care
  • Ralph Civil Rights Act (hate violence)
  • Unruh Civil Rights Act (businesses)

Laws Applicable Based on Employee Size

Neither list of employment laws is exhaustive. Employers are subjected to many other laws and regulations, but they only apply at certain employee thresholds. Below is a list of laws that apply at the following employee counts. California-specific laws are noted with a *.

  • 2 or more employees
    • Cal-COBRA*
    • Environmental Protection Agency
  • 5 or more employees
    • CA Discrimination Laws*
    • Pregnancy Disability Leave (PDL)
  • 15 or more employees
    • Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA/ADAAA)
    • Federal Discrimination Laws (Title VII)
    • Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA)
    • The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act(GINA)
    • Organ and Bone Marrow Donor’s Leave*
    • Civil Air Patrol Leave*
  • 20 or more employees
    • COBRA
    • The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA)
    • Older Workers Benefit Protection Act (OWBPA)
  • 25 or more employees
    • Drug/Alcohol Rehabilitation
    • Domestic Violence Leave: Medical Treatments*
    • Literacy Leave*
    • School Activities Leave*
    • Military Family Leave*
  • 50 or more employees
    • Affirmative Action (Federal)
    • Military Family Leave
    • Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)
    • California Federal Rights Act (CFRA)*
    • Mandatory Supervisor Unlawful/Sexual Harassment training including abusive conduct*
    • Volunteer Firefighters Training*
  • 75 or more
    • WARN Act (Plant closings and layoffs)
  • 100 or more
    • EEO reporting requirements
  • Leaves of Absence (holiday pay, sick pay, vacation) are not required, but if offered, specific laws apply.

This article was intended to provide a high-level review of the key employment laws in California, and across the nation. It is by no means exhaustive, and a professional HR consulting firm or employment specialist should be contacted with any questions or concerns.

Based in Los Angeles since 1982, CPEhr provides a comprehensive HR solution for small and mid-sized employers in California, and across the country. Contact us to schedule a free human resources consultation.