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Labor Laws

Read about the most important labor laws in California.

Adapted from and

At Will Employment

In California, the relationship of employer and employee is generally “at will.” This means that, without an employment contract, the employer or the employee can terminate the employment relationship at any time, with or without cause. Over the years, California courts and the Legislature created exceptions to California’s at-will presumption, increasing lawsuits for “wrongful termination.” 

Drug Testing

Pre-Employment Drug testing

  • California law allows an employer to require a "suspicionless" drug test as a condition of employment after a job offer is made but before the employee begins working. However, pre-employment testing is becoming increasingly complex in California, especially as it relates to marijuana/cannabis. Beginning in 2024, the Fair Employment and Housing Act will protect job applicants from discrimination based on their use of cannabis off the job and away from the workplace, which will impact employers’ pre-employment testing practices.

Routine or Random Drug Testing

  • Employers may not require employees to submit to random drug testing, except under certain narrowly defined circumstances. The courts have generally been supportive of requiring alcohol or drug testing based on specific objective facts and rational inferences drawn from those facts that indicate drug or alcohol abuse, although these facts and inferences may fall short of clear probable cause. The courts have clearly upheld testing of employees after a serious accident.

Drug-Free Workplace Policies

  • Whether or not your employees come under the requirements of state or federal drug-free workplace regulations, you may choose to create a drug-free workplace policy and/or include a drug-free workplace provision in your employee handbook. Proposition 64, the Adult Use of Marijuana Act, legalized the recreational use of marijuana for adults 21 years old and over. California also allows medical marijuana use with a prescription.

  • Even though recreational and medical marijuana are now legal, California employers still maintain the right to enforce a drug-free workplace policy, including prohibiting marijuana. If you include a drug-free workplace policy, there are a set of guidelines that can help you keep the policy fair, clear and consistent.

Pay Rates

Minimum Wage

  • Effective January 1st, 2024, the California minimum wage was increased to $16 per hour.

  • Effective in April, fast-food workers for chains with over 60 locations will receive $20 per hour.

  • Effective in June, health care workers will receive a minimum of $18, $21 or $23 an hour depending on the type of facility and location.

  • If you are paid by the piece or unit (sometimes called “by contract”) or paid by the day or week, your wages still must equal at least minimum wage for all the hours you worked. Tips are separate and cannot be counted as part of the minimum wage.

Overtime and Double-time Wage

Pay overtime equal to 1.5 times the regular rate of pay:

  • For most occupations, all hours over 8 in one day or over 40 in one week, and for the first eight hours of work on the seventh day of work in a workweek

Pay double-time:

  • For most occupations, all hours over 12 in one day or over eight on the seventh day of work in a workweek


  • Pay employees (with certain limited exceptions) at least twice a month on designated regular paydays.

  • With each payment of wages, whether by cash or check, the employer must provide a wage stub or statement with the following information: pay period dates; gross wages earned; total hours worked; breakdown of hourly rates and hours worked at each rate; piece rate information if applicable; all deductions; net wages; name and ID number of employee; and legal name and address of employer.

​​Safety and Health

Rest Periods

  • Provide a paid 10-minute rest break for every 4 hours of work

  • Provide a meal break of at least 30 minutes after no more than 5 hours of work

Employers must:

  • Make sure the workplace is safe by identifying health and safety hazards and correcting them.

  • Have a written health and safety plan. This is sometimes called an Injury and Illness Prevention Program.

  • Tell you about workplace hazards and train you how to work safely. The training must be presented in a way that you understand.

  • Have Workers’ Compensation insurance and pay for medical care for work-related injuries and illnesses.

  • Keep track of all workplace injuries and illnesses that require more treatment than first aid. Certain employers must keep a log of injuries and illnesses and post a summary from February to April.

  • Post the Cal/OSHA poster, Safety and Health Protection on the Job, in a place where everyone can see.

  • Call Cal/OSHA right away when an employee is killed or seriously injured on the job.


What You Can Do

Worksites are safer when workers are involved, and the law protects you when you speak up about safety. You have the right to:

  • Ask for information about things you think are dangerous

  • Talk about health and safety problems with your coworkers or supervisor

  • Make suggestions for a safer workplace

  • Report safety problems and injuries to your supervisor

  • Refuse work that could put your life in danger or cause serious injury

  • Report problems to Cal/OSHA.

  • Cal/OSHA, the state workplace safety and health agency, inspects workplaces and can fine employers and require them to fix problems. Cal/OSHA will never give your name to the employer. You can even call them without giving your name.

  • Call a worker organization or legal aid group. They may be able to advise you on your rights and help you decide what actions to take.

It is illegal for your employer to fire you or discriminate against you at work for making a good faith complaint about an unhealthy or unsafe condition.

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