California Leave Laws

Vacation Leave

In California, employers are not required to provide employees with vacation benefits, either paid or unpaid. This is according to the CA Dept. of Industrial Relations: Benefits.

If an employer chooses to provide such benefits, it must comply with the terms of its established policy or employment contract.

If an employer chooses to have an established policy, practice, or agreement to provide paid vacation, certain restrictions are placed on it regarding how it fulfills its obligation to provide vacation pay. Employers must pay employees for all accrued or earned vacation upon separation from employment, regardless of the reason for the separation. CA Dept. of Industrial Relations Vacation FAQ.

That said, an employer can place a reasonable cap on vacation leave preventing an employee from accruing or earning vacation over a certain number of hours. CA Dept. of Industrial Relations Vacation FAQ.

When an employment relationship ends, all vacation earned but not yet taken by the employee must be paid at the time of termination. CA Labor Code 227.3.

In California, it is illegal for an employer to implement a “use-it-or-lose-it”” policy requiring employees to use accrued vacation prior a set date or lose it. CA Dept. of Industrial Relations Vacation FAQ.

Sick Leave

California law requires most employers to provide sick leave to most employees. For more information about sick leave requirements, take a look at this California Sick Leave Law requirements checklist.

Employees may also qualify for payment for sick leave through California’s State Disability Insurance program or its Paid Family Leave program.

An employer in California may be required to provide an with employee extended unpaid sick leave in accordance with the California Family Rights Act, Family and Medical Leave Act, or other federal laws.

Holiday Leave

CCalifornia law does not require private employers to provide employees with either paid or unpaid holiday leave. This is according to the CA Dept. of Industrial Relations: Holidays.

In California, a private employer can require an employee to work holidays. A private employer does not have to pay an employee premium pay, such as 1 1/2 times the regular rate, for working on holidays, unless such time worked qualifies the employee for overtime. If an employer chooses to provide either paid or unpaid holiday leave, it must comply with the terms of its established policy or employment contract.

State holidays

To know more, check out this California State Holidays page for a list of holidays recognized and observed by the state of California as well as information regarding state laws governing holiday leave for public employers and employees.

Jury Duty Leave

An employer is not required to pay an employee any wages for time spent complying with a jury summons or serving on a jury.

An employer may not discharge or otherwise penalize an employee for taking time off to serve on a jury or trial jury if the employee, prior to taking time off, gives reasonable notice to the employer that he or she is required to serve.

An employee may use vacation, personal, or compensatory leave, if available, for the time taken responding to a jury summons or serving on a jury. This is according to the CA Labor Code 230.

Voting Leave

California law requires employers to provide employees with sufficient time off to vote. 

The time off must be either before the employees’ shifts begin or after their shifts end, unless otherwise agreed to by the employer and employee.

The employer is only required to pay employees for up to two (2) hours of time off to vote.

Employers must give their employer at least three days’ notice of their intention to take voting leave if they know or have reason to know the leave will be necessary.

At least ten (10) days prior to the date of the election, an employer shall post notice conspicuously so that workers can see the law pertaining to their voting rights. This is according to the CA Election Code 14001.

Bereavement Leave

California requires certain employers with five (5) or more employees to provide employees bereavement leave. Employers with fewer than five (5) employees are not required to provide either paid or unpaid bereavement leave. For more information, please visit our page discussing California’s Bereavement Leave Law.

California Family and Medical Leave


Employers in California must adhere to the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and the CFRA or California Family Rights Act.

Employers with 50 or more employees for more than 20 weeks in the past year must adhere to FMLA. Moreover, employees who worked at least 12 months for more than 1,250 hours in the past year and work at a business with at least 50 employees in a 75-mile radius are eligible for leave under FMLA.

However, CFRA applies to all businesses with 5 or more employees. For an employee to qualify under CFRA, they must have worked at least 12 months and at least 1,250 hours within the past year.

New Parent Leave

Under CFRA, all employers must allow eligible employees to work at a reduced or limited schedule to bond with a baby. An employer in California who employs both parents must permit both parents to take up to 12 weeks of leave within 12 months to care for or bond with a new child. This includes parents of newborn children and children placed in a home through foster care or adoption.

Pregnancy Disability Leave

Under CFRA, there is a pregnancy disability leave law that allows employees to take up to 120 days or roughly four months off for pregnancy disability or childbirth-related medical conditions. This applies to employers with five or more employees and all public employees. There are no minimum time or hour requirements for an employee to be eligible for pregnancy disability leave. There are also legal consequences for employers who fail to follow these laws.

Family and Medical Leave

Under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), employees who must care for a sick child, parent, or spouse may take up to 12 weeks of protected leave, which also applies to an employee’s own serious health condition. A serious health condition is one that makes an employee unable to perform the functions of their position. Employers are allowed to require certification of the health condition by a certified healthcare provider.

Leave for School Activities

In California, employers with 25 or more employees at the same location cannot discriminate against or discharge an employee for taking time off to participate in their child’s school activities. All eligible employees can take up to 40 hours per year to participate in their children’s school activities or address childcare emergencies.

Crime Victims Leave

Under California law, crime victim leave allows an employee to be safe from discrimination, retaliation, or dismissal due to taking work time off for crimes that they have suffered. This also includes time taken off to appear in court.

Domestic Violence Victim Leave

Under California law, employers may not retaliate or discriminate against an employee for leaving work due to obtaining domestic violence protection. Victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, etc., are allowed to take time off to seek medical attention and psychological counseling, obtain domestic violence services, or engage in safety planning.

California Employment and Labor Laws FAQs

Below is additional information you might want to know about specific employment and labor laws in California.

Are there specific laws in California regarding Paid Family Leaves (PFL), particularly for a foster child?

California’s Paid Family Leave (PFL) allows parents to bond with a minor foster child for a period of eight weeks. This leave can be availed until the first anniversary of foster placement.

In California Employment and Labor Laws, what are provisions pertaining to having a domestic partner?

Family Code Section 297 of California defines a domestic partner as someone with whom one shares a common residence, a committed relationship, but is not necessarily bound by blood or marriage.

As long as the domestic partner is registered, one is entitled to California’s Paid Family Disability Leave.

This involves having limited replacement wages amounting to six weeks of leave.

What labor laws in California apply to having a newborn child?

California has a New Parent Leave Act (NPLA) that guarantees up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for parents who need to take care of a newborn child.

This is applicable for both paternity and maternity leaves, whether they are a biological parent or a foster parent.

Are there labor laws in California that protect employees from having unpaid time?

According to several labor laws of the state, penalties await a business employer if employees are not paid on time.

This is for both private employees and public employees and includes having grace periods for delayed overtime pay.

Are there labor and employment laws in California designed specifically to help a female employee?

Yes. For example, the California Equal Pay Act guarantees that employers are prohibited from paying employees of the opposite sex less than the other.

Employers, as a matter of company policy, are also urged to give lactation accommodations to female employees.

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