California is well-known for being an employee-friendly state, which is reflected in the very thorough collection of labor codes that employers are expected to follow, which are divided into five different divisions, a multitude of chapters and thousands of separate articles. Most California employers are aware of and adhere to the most commonly-regulated requirements such as minimum wage, meal and rest breaks, overtime, and final pay. These are the “big ones” that employers hear about the most, because they are often the reason behind notable employment lawsuits in the state.
Failure to adhere to any labor regulation comes with some kind of penalty for an employer, regardless of how obscure the requirement may be. We’ve gathered some of the lesser-known California labor laws here – they may sound silly, but they’re real!
- Free workplace drinking water. According to Labor Code Section 2441, “Every employer of labor in this state shall, without making a charge therefor, provide fresh and pure drinking water to his or her employees during working hours. Access to the drinking water shall be permitted at reasonable and convenient times and places.” Employers who violate this code can be subject to a fine for each offense of between $50 to $200, and even up to 30 days in prison, depending on the severity of violation.
- Reasonable accommodations for illiterate employees. If an employee reveals they have a literacy problem, you may be unsure of what to do or how to help them. But, Labor Code Section 1041 has got you covered. According to this lesser-know law, “Every private employer regularly employing 25 or more employees shall reasonably accommodate and assist any employee who reveals a problem of illiteracy and requests employer assistance in enrolling in an adult literacy education program” This does not mean the employer must enroll the employee in school on their own dime, but it does note that “employer assistance” can include, but is not limited to, providing the employee with the locations of local literacy education programs or arranging for a literacy education provider to visit the jobsite. Many of these programs are free, but the employee may just need help finding them.
- No polygraph tests. Thinking about a lie detector test for any of your employees? Think again. Labor Code Section 432.2 states that “No employer shall demand or require any applicant for employment or prospective employment or any employee to submit to or take a polygraph, lie detector or similar test or examination as a condition of employment or continued employment.” Public agencies are exempt from this rule, but private employers should forego using polygraph tests to screen employees.
- Time off for kids’ school-related activities. Your employee has another school assembly to attend during work hours? According to Labor Code Section 230.8, employers who employ more than 25 or more employees at the same location may not discriminate against employees for taking off up to forty hours each year (not to exceed eight hours per month) to participate in enrollment or other activities at their child’s K to 12th grade school or licensed child day care facility.
- Time off for emergency duties. Volunteer emergency personnel are protected under Labor Code Section 230.3. The law states that “An employer shall not discharge or in any manner discriminate against an employee for taking time off to perform emergency duty as a volunteer firefighter, a reserve peace officer, or emergency rescue personnel.” In some cases, the employee may need to leave for an extended amount of time, such as to assist with a wildfire in another part of the state. When they return, they are expected to be allowed to continue employment. Violations come with a misdemeanor charge for the employer.
It’s almost like there is a specific Labor Code section for every possible situation, because there is! It may seem impossible to familiarize yourself with all of the state’s labor requirements, especially while running a business at the same time. Partnering with a PEO provider is a great way to help employers cover their bases, because it allows them to benefit from professionals whose sole job is to know and understand all of the labor regulations in the state and who they apply to.
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Since 1995, Emplicity has provided a smarter, more secure, and integrated platform of employer services to its 300 business clients and their 8,500 employees. As a Professional Employer Organization, or PEO, the California-based HR outsourcing firm simplifies the compliance, administration, and support businesses need in the areas of employee benefits, payroll, and human resources technology.
NOTICE: Emplicity provides HR advice and recommendations. Information provided by Emplicity is not intended as a substitute for employment law counsel. At no time will Emplicity have the authority or right to make decisions on behalf of its clients.