FAQ


Frequently Asked Questions

[California Employers]

Table of Contents

  • When can I fire an employee?
     
  • Am I required to grant a leave of absence to an
    employee?
     
  • Do my employees have to take meal breaks?
     
  • What constitutes sexual harassment?
     
  • On what bases is employment discrimination prohibited?
     
  • When must I pay an employee for vacation time?

When can I fire an employee?

In most states, including California, an employer can terminate the
employment relationship “at-will” as long as the employer has not modified the
at-will relationship through its policies, practices or other express or implied
contractual limitations and the termination is not in violation of any other
federal or state law.

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Am I required to grant a leave of absence to an employee?

If you have 50 or more employees you must comply with the federal Family and
Medical Leave Act and the California Family Rights Act. These laws generally
allow for leaves of up to 12 weeks for eligible employees during which the
employer must continue to pay health benefits premiums normally paid by the
employer. If you have 5 or more employees you must comply with California
Pregnancy Disability provisions of the Fair Employment and Housing Act, which
allows women disabled by pregnancy up to 4 months’ leave.

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Do my employees have to take meal breaks?

Under the Industrial Welfare Commission orders – covering various industries
and occupations – employees who are not exempt must have a meal break of at
least 30 minutes for every 5-hour work period, except that if a 6-hour work
period will complete the day’s work the meal period may be waived by mutual
consent of the employer and employee. A second meal period is required when
there is a 10-hour work period, which may be waived by mutual consent if the
total hours worked is no more than 12. In certain instances employees may have
an “on duty” paid meal period

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What constitutes sexual harassment?

Sexual harassment is unwelcome advances or other verbal or physical conduct
that is tied to a job benefit or working condition or results in a significant
change in employment status; or other conduct that is based on or because of
sex/gender that creates a hostile or offensive work environment or that
substantially interferes with an employee’s job performance.

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On what bases is employment discrimination prohibited?

Federal and/or California laws prohibit discrimination on the basis of race,
color, religious creed, sex (including gender), age, national origin, ancestry,
physical or mental disability, medical condition (cancer; genetic
characteristics), marital status, sexual orientation, pregnancy or
military/veteran status. Additionally, a number of statutes prohibit
discriminating against an employee for availing himself of rights under various
other statutes, e.g., workers’ compensation, family leave, engaging in union
activity, etc.  

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When must I pay an employee for vacation time?

There is no legal obligation for an employer to grant paid vacation. However,
if the employer has a policy or agreement that provides for paid vacation for
employees, in California an employer cannot require an employee to “use it or
lose it.” This means that once an employee has accrued vacation time it is
vested and cannot be taken away. The employee must be paid for those days if not
used prior to termination. The employer can defer accrual of vacation during an
initial period of employment and can “cap” further accruals once a specified
amount has been accumulated.  

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These materials have been prepared for educational and
informational purposes only. They are not legal advice or legal opinions on any
specific matters. Transmission of the information is not intended to create, and
receipt does not constitute, a lawyer-client relationship between Employer’s
Legal Advisor, Inc. and you. Internet subscribers and online readers should not
act upon this information without seeking professional counsel.

Last revised: January, 2009