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There are many differences between California state laws and federal statutes when it comes to employment laws, so employees enjoy far more protection in comparison to other states or even under federal laws. Certain federal employment laws set standards for minimum requirements that every employer in the country must abide by, but California also has several other rights and benefits under its own state laws.

If you have concerns about employment law violations should work with an experienced California employment law attorney when dealing with any kind of complex state employment requirement.

California Compensation laws

California has a no-fault workers’ compensation system, meaning that workers are unable to sue their employers in court, but employees also do not have to prove an employer was at fault for a work-related injury. Workers’ compensation benefits may include medical bills, temporary disability benefits, permanent disability benefits, life pension payments, vocational retraining costs, and death benefits.

Minimum wage and hourly compensation

On January 1, 2022, California’s statewide minimum wage increased to $15.00, the highest rate in the United States. These minimum wage rates are even higher in certain cities or even for certain types of businesses within certain cities.

Wage deductions

The California Department of Industrial Relations notes that employers in the state can lawfully withhold amounts from an employee’s wages only when required or empowered to do so by state or federal law when a deduction has been expressly authorized in writing by an employee to cover benefit plan contributions, insurance premiums, or other deductions not amounting to a rebate on the employee’s wages, or when a deduction to cover health, welfare, or pension contributions is expressly authorized by a wage or collective bargaining agreement. Common payroll deductions that may be made by some employers but are unlawful include gratuities, photographs, bonds, uniforms, business expenses, and medical or physical examinations.


California state law dictates that when it comes to overtime, eight hours of labor will constitute a day’s work, and any employment that goes beyond eight hours in any workday or more than six days in any workweek will require an employee to be compensated for an overtime rate of no less than one and one-half times their regular rate of pay for any hours worked in excess of eight hours up to and including 12 hours in a workday as well as the first eight hours that are worked on the seventh consecutive day of work in a workweek; and double an employee’s regular rate of pay for any hours that are worked in excess of 12 hours in any workday and all hours worked in excess of eight on a seventh consecutive day of work in a workweek.


Whereas federal law allows employers to refuse to pay for business expenses so long as full-time workers are earning a minimum wage, California requires all employers to provide reimbursement for any business expenses.

Rest breaks

California employers must provide rest breaks for their employees, which are not required under federal law. Workers are entitled to unpaid 30-minute meal periods during the first five hours of their workdays, and they also get 10-minute paid rest breaks for every four hours of work.

Vacations and leaves of absence

An employer will be required to provide leaves for specific purposes, and both leave and vacation time will be paid and count as earned wages.

Vacation policies

Employers in California cannot enforce a use-it-or-lose-it policy since vacation time will be considered a form of earned wages. This means that when an employee leaves or is terminated, they still have to be paid for all of their unused accrued vacation time.

Types of leaves

The six types of situations in California in which an employee can file a temporary leave that is either paid or will count as additional job benefits include:

  • Time off to vote — An employee can take off as much as two hours off for voting without forfeiting pay.
  • Pregnancy disability leave — An employee may take up to four months of pregnancy leave as well as another leave of as much as 12 weeks.
  • Judicial proceedings — Employees who are either the victims of some felonies or will be important witnesses may take time off for judicial proceedings.
  • Paid family leave — Employees who have to file for leave to care for sick family members can receive benefits to replace any portion of lost wages.
  • Volunteer civil service — Volunteer reserve peace officers, firefighters, and emergency rescue personnel are allowed to take time off for the performance of emergency duties.
  • Sick leave — California state law requires employers to provide and allow employees to use at least 24 hours or three days of paid sick leave per year.
  • School issues and activities — Up to 40 hours off per year is allowed for parents to participate in the school activities of children.

Employee protection laws

The major difference between federal anti-discrimination laws and California state laws concerns the number of employees, as California’s prohibitions apply to even the smallest private employers with just only a single employee when it comes to harassment.


The California Fair Employment and Housing Act prohibits employers from any sort of discrimination, most notably on the basis of sex, sexual orientation, race, color, religion, national origin, disabilities, gender identity, and age.


California requires employers to take the necessary steps to prevent harassment in the workplace, including harassment training and orientations on existing policies. Employees can file complaints about sexual harassment or other forms of harassment to either their internal departments or external agencies.

Call Us Today to Schedule a Free Consultation with a California Employment Law Attorney

If you need help with any kind of employment issue in California, be sure to contact a skilled California employment law attorney. Mara Law Firm has been handling employment law cases in the Sunshine State for several years.

You can call (619) 648-2550 or (855) 964-1062, or you can contact us online to receive a free consultation that will allow us to take a longer look at your case and advise you on what your rights are.

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This page has been written, edited, and reviewed by a team of legal writers following our comprehensive editorial guidelines. This page was approved by attorney David Mara who has more than 20 years of legal experience in employment law.

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