10 Common California Employment Law Myths

Myths Busted by Our Los Angeles Employment Attorneys

California employment laws are often misunderstood. The Los Angeles employment attorneys of Kesluk, Silverstein & Jacob have compiled and shared ten common California employment law myths to help workers understand their employee rights and promote safe workplaces across the state and nation.

Reach out to the Los Angeles employment lawyers at Kesluk, Silverstein & Jacob today to schedule a free consultation if you believe you suffered workplace discrimination, sexual harassment or feel your employer is otherwise in violating your employee rights.

Employment Law Myth #1: Workplace Bullying is a Form of Illegal Harassment in California

Reality: Workplace bullying is often hurtful and disruptive, but the law does not consider it a form of illegal harassment. The word “harassment,” when describing workplace issues, usually refers to acts of sexual harassment or a hostile work environment.

When it may be illegal: Workplace bullying does, however, become an illegal form of workplace discrimination when an employee is treated unfairly or is relentlessly ridiculed because of his or her race, religion, national origin, age (over 40), sex, pregnancy or disability. It is also in violation of the California discrimination laws for an employer to retaliate against any employee who reports discrimination. If you have questions regarding whether you may have a valid workplace discrimination case, reach out to our Los Angeles employment lawyers for free legal advice.

Employment Law Myth #2: It Is Mandatory to Give 2 Weeks’ Notice Before Quitting a Job in California

Reality: Due to most Los Angeles employees being employed “at will,” they may choose to quit at any time, for any reason and are not legally obliged to give two weeks’ notice.

Employment Law Myth #3: California Employers Cannot Fire Employees for No Reason

Reality: California is an “at will” employment state, meaning employees can be terminated at any time, for any reason unless they are government workers or contracted to work for a specified amount of time.

When it may be illegal: Although an employer may choose to end a working relationship at will, it is illegal to fire an employee based upon his or her membership of a protected class. For example, firing a qualified and hardworking employee because of his or her race is an illegal act of racial discrimination. Additionally, under the Whistleblower Protection Act, firing a whistleblower is an illegal act of workplace retaliation.

Employment Law Myth #4: Pregnant California Employees are Entitled to Paid Maternity Leave

Reality: It is a common misconception that California employment laws require employers to offer paid maternity leave. Under the California Family Rights Act (CFRA), expectant parents (male and female) are allowed 12 weeks unpaid leave to bond with their newborn or newly adopted child. The California Pregnancy Disability Leave law (PDL) established that women who suffer health consequences and temporary disabilities, either during their pregnancies or after the birth of their child, might qualify for an extra four months of unpaid medical leave to recover.

Employment Law Myth #5: All California Employees are Entitled Paid Vacation and Sick Time

Reality: There are no federal or California employment laws that mandate paid or unpaid vacation or sick leave. California employers are not required to offer any vacation or sick time to their employees. However, to remain competitive, it is customary for many Los Angeles companies to offer paid time off benefits.

Employment Law Myth #6: It Is Illegal for a Potential Employer to Ask Whether You Have Kids in an Interview

Reality: It is not illegal for an employer to ask applicants whether they have children, about their religion or about their national heritage during an interview if it is directly related to the functions of the job. For example, if the position requires a lot of travel or night shifts, it is acceptable for an interviewer to inquire about a candidate’s family responsibilities and ask if such a schedule would be suitable.

When it may be illegal: Asking whether you have children in an interview only becomes unlawful when the disclosed information influences the hiring decision in a discriminatory manner. Refusing to hire based upon any protected characteristic can result in a workplace discrimination claim.

Employment Law Myth #7: Potential Employers are Allowed to Ask If You Have a Disability

Reality: It is in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) for interviewers to ask candidates about physical or mental health disabilities before offering employment. For example, employers are not allowed to ask questions regarding what medications an applicant is taking, whether he or she has a history of mental health issues or has ever sustained a work injury.

Once the job is offered, however, the employer is legally allowed to ask such questions in order to provide reasonable disability accommodations. If you feel you have been victimized by disability discrimination over the course of your job search in California, reach out to our Los Angeles employment lawyers for a free consultation on your employee rights today.

Employment Law Myth #8: Salaried Employees Do Not Get Overtime Pay

Reality: According to California overtime laws, only salaried, executive, administrative or professional employees who exercise substantial independent judgment or supervise others are generally exempt from earning overtime pay. Under wage and hour law in California, commissioned employees are also exempt from overtime pay.

Employment Law Myth #9: Employers Must Give Terminated or Laid Off Employees Two Weeks’ Notice or Two Weeks of Severance Pay

Reality: Severance pay is required only if it is offered by the employer’s severance pay policy. There are no California employment laws requiring employers to give at will employees any warning of termination or provide them with severance compensation. In some cases, severance can be negotiated, however, this often requires workers to surrender their employee rights and ability to bring a lawsuit against their employer.

If you feel you have endured a wrongful termination due to discrimination or workplace retaliation, making severance negotiations could jeopardize your right to seek justice. Pursue legal advice from our Los Angeles employment attorneys as soon as possible if you feel you have experienced workplace discrimination or prior to negotiating severance pay options with a former employer.

Employment Law Myth #10: California Employees Have No Rights Without a Written Contract

Reality: Most employees work in the private sector and are non-contracted, at will employees. This does not mean they do not have employee rights. Federal and California labor laws are enforced to protect the rights of all California employees as well as ensure a fair and accommodating work environment for everyone.