Seyfarth Synopsis: With the latest coronavirus variant, Omicron, detected and increasing in California, many companies may be questioning their plans to host office holiday parties. But no need to call in the Grinch just yet! We have some tips to comply with current COVID-19 guidelines, and to avoid employer liability to keep this holiday season merry and bright.

It is
Continue Reading Omicron Is Coming to Town: Protecting Employers From Fa-La-La-Liability

Seyfarth Synopsis: When faced with wildfires or natural disasters, California employers must keep calm, carry on, and continue to meet their obligations under California law.

Be Prepared.

All employers, not just those in California, must have an Emergency Action Plan (“EAP”) and Fire Prevention Plan (“FPP’).

California regulations state that an EAP should include (1) procedures for emergency evacuation, (2)
Continue Reading When Disaster Strikes: How Employers Should Respond to Wildfires

Seyfarth Synopsis: Some California employers offer floating holidays for employees to use for events like the upcoming St. Patrick’s Day holiday. Floating holidays, while offering additional unrestricted days off that promote employee satisfaction and work-life balance, can also bring a sinking feeling to employers who learn, too late, of their possible ballast.

Many California businesses provide 11 paid holidays to
Continue Reading Rules to Avoid Bursting Your Floating Holiday Bubble

Seyfarth Synopsis: Sustained cuts to California’s court system have strained access to justice across the state, and not enough is being done to fix the situation.  But, you can help!

Since the “Great Recession” of 2008, California’s court system has seen unprecedented reductions in funding, further straining the resources of an already overburdened court system.  A 2013 report from the
Continue Reading Show Me the Money! California’s Underfunded Courts

Seyfarth Synopsis: New FAQs from DLSE offer some guidance on California’s “new and improved” Equal Pay Act. Most helpful is discussion of factors (skill, effort, responsibility) affecting whether work by different employees is “substantially similar” enough to require equal wages. 

As Seyfarth has reported previously here, as of January 1, 2016, California has one of the most aggressive pay
Continue Reading New DLSE FAQs: Unequal Guidance On Equal Pay Law

It is not surprising that sparks may fly in the workplace, considering that most Americans spend more time at work than they do anywhere else. And as Valentine’s Day approaches, workplace romances are especially likely to flourish. Employers should be prepared to address issues that arise when Cupid’s arrow goes astray.

When Do Workplace Romances Become A Problem?

In California,
Continue Reading All Is Fair In Love And The Workplace?

Employers usually reserve the right to approve in advance when their employees can schedule requested vacation time.  But can an employer with a garden-variety vacation/PTO policy (i.e., non-union, non-ERISA) ever require employees to use accrued vacation or PTO for an otherwise unpaid absence from work? 

Consider the following commonly occurring scenarios: 

1.  Sally needs to take a leave of absence to care for her ailing father. 

2.  Mike needs to take a leave of absence to deal with his own disabling medical condition. 

3.  Pregnant employee, Marcia, just found out she is ordered to bed rest for the remainder of her pregnancy. 

4.  Frank announces his plan to retire.  Then his supervisor makes her own announcement: Frank must use his vacation now, before his resignation is effective. 

5.  When the company closes for the last week of the year, all employees must use their vacation or PTO time. 

Remember the Rules:

Contrary to what many employees believe, vacation or PTO is not an entitlement.  It is a matter of agreement between the employer and the employee.  So, the accrual and terms of use can generally be subject to whatever reasonable restrictions and requirements the employer’s policy provides.  The key to validity here is the reasonableness of the restrictions. 

Reasonable restrictions can be things like:

✓     Only full-time employees are eligible for vacation
✓    
No one is eligible to accrue vacation until completing 90 days of employment
✓    
Vacation can be taken in minimum increments of, say, 4 hours or 1 day 
Continue Reading So Vacate Already! — When Can An Employer Force Employees To Take Paid Time Off?

While vacation time is not limited to the summer months, this is the traditional time for employees to vacate the workplace and get a little R&R.  With visions of sun-drenched beaches, waterparks and road trips fresh in our minds, here is a reminder of the basic California rules on vacation, or paid time off.  The rules are complex, and are different in more significant ways than just about anywhere else in the country, so knock the water out of your ears and pay close attention. 

Q.  What’s the difference between vacation and PTO (paid time off)?

            In California, there is no difference.  Any paid time off that can be used at the employee’s discretion and is not tied to a particular event (like your birthday) is considered vacation.  This includes unrestricted “personal days” and “floating holidays.”  They’re all vacation. 

Q.  Can an employer implement a “use-it-or-lose-it” policy for vacations?

            No.  Unlike most everywhere else, California law does not permit employers to require forfeiture of vested vacation if employees do not take the vacation during a prescribed time period.  For example, it is not okay in California to have a policy that says “You get two (2) weeks of vacation a year, but if you don’t use it by December 31, it will be lost.”  Here in California, rather than being lost, the vacation balance rolls over in its entirety.  

Q.  But, can an employer cap the amount of vacation time an employee accrues?

            Yes.  In order to prevent vacation accruing ad infinitum, employers have two potential tools. 
                        One:  Have a vacation accrual cap in place.  That is, when an employee accrues a maximum amount of vacation (say 1.5 times the annual accrual rate), all accruals will stop until the employee uses some vacation and the vacation balance falls below the cap.  The employer’s policy on vacation accrual caps must be carefully drafted so that an employee has a reasonable time to use accrued vacation.  Simply capping at the annual rate of accrual is not a reasonable amount. 

                        Two:  Have a policy that mandates when vacation must be used (see next week’s post on this).

Q.  Does an employer have to pay out vacation when an employee terminates? 

            Yes.  In California, accrued vacation is treated the same as wages.  If an employee has accrued but unused vacation at the time employment ends, it must be paid out at the employee’s final rate of pay. 

Q.  Can an employer decide not to provide vacation pay to some employees, such as probationary, part-time or temporary employees?


Continue Reading Vacation Time — What Are the Rules Again?