The 10 Most Frequently Asked HR Questions

  1. Employee Time Out of the Office:

If your office is open four days per week, you can require that employees schedule their discretionary appointments (haircuts, dental checkups, veterinary visits) for their off day and not during regular work hours. The federal and state employment laws do not restrict this policy when it comes to these non-emergency types of appointments. But, exceptions must be made for emergency appointments for the employee or a family member.
  1. Alternative Workweek:

An alternative workweek schedule (AWS) means any regularly scheduled workweek requiring an employee to work more than eight hours in a 24-hour period. An alternative work schedule can be created for any readily identifiable work unit, such as a division, department, job classification, shift or separate physical location with the approval by secret ballot election of at least 2⁄3 of the affected employees in the work unit. Before an alternative work schedule is implemented, an organization must meet specific requirements in terms of proposing the schedule to the employee group, explaining the effects of the alternative workweek schedule and conducting a secret vote.
  • The organization must present a proposal, in the form of a written agreement, and designate a regularly scheduled alternative workweek. The proposal must specify the number of regular recurring workdays and work hours; the actual workdays do not need to be specified.
  • Prior to the secret ballot vote, the organization must have held meeting(s) with the affected employees, a minimum of 14 days prior to the election, to discuss the effects of the proposed alternative work schedule on the employees' wages, hours and benefits. A written disclosure detailing the information above must be included in the meetings. If at least 5% of the affected employees speak a language other than English, the disclosure must be provided in that language in addition to English. Organizations are required to mail the written disclosure to employees who do not attend the meeting(s).
  • The election must be held at the worksite of the affected employees during regular working hours. (The organization must pay for all associated costs.) Election results must be reported by the organization to the Department of Labor Standards Enforcement within 30 days of finalizing the results. The report must include the final tally of the vote, the size of the unit and the nature of the business of the organization.
  • Employees affected by a change in work hours resulting from the adoption of an alternative workweek schedule may not be required to work those new work hours for at least 30 days after the announcement of the final results of the election
  1. Paid Time Off (PTO):

In California, employers are not required to provide any paid vacation or paid time off (PTO) to their employees. However, studies have shown that giving employees time off to relax benefits not only employees, but also employers.
  1. Accrual Vacation:

California law considers accrued vacation to be a form of wages that have already been earned by the employee. Among other things, this means that accrued vacation cannot expire and must be paid out to an employee upon termination or separation from the employer. The same rules apply to PTO.
  1. Sick Pay:

Under the California state law, you must provide paid sick leave benefits to all employees who will work at least 30 days in a year.  You may frontload the greater of 3 days or 24 hours or alternatively, sick leave benefits may accrue as employee’s work, at a rate that is not less than one hour per 30 hours worked and you may limit sick leave to 3 days or 24 hours per year.  Employees must be allowed to accrue sick leave from year to year, but employers can place a cap on accrual of 48 hours (or six days) before the accrual may freeze or stop until the employee uses some of the benefits. Employers can limit an employee's use of sick leave to 24 hours (or three days) per year.  If you work under an authorized alternative workweek schedule, 3 days will be greater than 24 hours (e.g., 3 days @ 9 hours = 27 hours).   San Diego Proper: In San Diego, you must frontload at least 40 hours.  Frontload means that you grant the benefits as of the first day of employment, and again every year thereafter.  You may use the employee’s start date as the yearly date for re-loading the benefits, or you may select a date common to everyone, such as January 1st, in which case, you still must grant the full amount on the first day of employment, and then re-load the full amount every January 1st.   If you frontload sick leave, you may, but are not required to, cash out unused benefits at the end of the year. Note: in San Diego, you must allow employees to use up to 40 hours per year. Note: in San Diego, you must allow sick leave to accrue up to 80 hours.  - Anita York, Partner at Scott & Whitehead
  1. Overtime Law:

California law requires that employers pay overtime, whether authorized or not, at the rate of one and one-half times the employee's regular rate of pay for all hours worked in excess of eight up to and including 12 hours in any workday, and for the first eight hours of work on the seventh consecutive day of work.
  1. Salary Employee:

California’s salary basis test for exempt employees is directly tied to the state’s minimum wage.  Exempt employees must earn at least twice the state’s minimum wage for full-time employment, meaning that under the current $10 per hour minimum wage, exempt employees must earn an annual salary of $41,600 ($10 per hour x 2 x 40 hours per week x 52 weeks per year).  Under a $15 per hour minimum wage, the minimum annual salary jumps to $62,400 ($15 per hour x 2 x 40 hours per week x 52 weeks per year). Employers are encouraged to start assessing their workforce and compensation policies to prepare to adjust compensation for, at a minimum, nonexempt employees who earn less than $15 per hour and exempt employees who earn less than $62,400 per year. Some of the most significant class action lawsuits have been the result of an employer's misclass​ification of nonexempt employees as though they were exempt from California overtime. Prior to placing your employees on a salary, check to see if they qualify to be exempt, go to and take the exempt/nonexempt wizard test.
  1. Rest and Meal Breaks:

California law requires that if you are a non-exempt worker, you are entitled to meal and rest breaks: a 30-minute meal break if you work more than 5 hours in a workday, and 10 minutes breaks for every 4 hours you work. BUT, an employee can agree with their employer to waive this meal period provided you do not work more than 6 hours in the workday along with a signed waiver.  An employer is not required to monitor its employees to make sure that they take their full rest period.
  1. Maternity Leave:

In California, eligible pregnant and bonding mothers can take up to 4 months of unpaid job-protected pregnancy disability leave under PDL (Paid Family Leave), and up to 12 weeks of bonding leave under CFRA (California Family Rights Act) depending on how long they are physical unable to work. SDI (State Disability Insurance) provides 55% of your weekly wages up to a maximum of 52 weeks.
  1. Final Pay Check:

California's law is the strictest in the nation. An employee who is dismissed or laid off is entitled to a final paycheck immediately, meaning at the time of termination or layoff. ... California also protects employees by requiring that employers include all accrued, unused vacation or PTO in the employee's final pay. If an employee quits without giving advance notice, the employer must provide the final paycheck within 72 hours.   -Deb Eatros, Management Consultant, PracticeCFO
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