Employer FAQ: Understanding Employer Rights and Responsibilities in California

As an employer in California, you have certain rights and responsibilities as they pertain to the business and employees. These rights and responsibilities must be clearly understood by owners and managers to ensure your rights are upheld as much as the rights of your employees are upheld. You want everyone playing by the same book, and that book should encompass company policies that incorporate rights and responsibilities. Sometimes, however, an issue arises. When an issue transpires, you may need legal help

At Polek Law, our employment law attorney based in San Diego handles a wide range of cases for employers, company owners, and managers. We are able to address your concerns, review the matter, and negotiate strategically on your behalf. It is always best, however, to take proactive steps to avoid a legal issue from arising in the first place. Contact our employment law lawyer today at 619-550-2455 to schedule a consultation and to learn more about how we can help your company immediately and proactively. 

What Rights Do Employers in California Have?

There is always talk about employee rights in California with little said about employer rights. Employers, however, have rights. These rights may vary from state to state. Some states are more liberal with employer rights than others. Generally, employer rights include:

  • Define job roles
  • Set hiring criteria
  • Define suitability standards
  • Define company culture
  • Establish company policies and procedures
  • Require overtime
  • Determine pay scale or pay rates
  • Monitor employees' performance
  • Monitor employees' use of office equipment
  • Monitor employees' use of social media in violation of company policy

Can an Employer Fire an At-Will Employee in California?

An at-will employee is an employee that can be terminated by their employer at any time for any reason. The employer will not be held legally liable for terminating an at-will employee. The only caveat is that the employee cannot be fired for an unlawful reason. Almost all states have at-will employees, although some do have special rules for this type of employment.

Can an Employer Require Mandatory Overtime?

Generally speaking, an employer can require mandatory overtime from their employees. They must also, however, ensure that the employee is paid appropriately according to state and federal laws. 

Can an Employer Require Certain Behavior and Performance?

An employer has the right to set certain policies regarding the behavior and performance of employees. Policies must be easily accessible to all employees and must be enforced equally. In other words, the employer cannot enforce rules against only certain employees in a manner that is discriminatory. 

Examples of policies that may be enforced include:

  • Restrictions regarding cell phone and social media usage while on the clock
  • Dress codes 
  • Personal grooming

Allowed reasons for creating these policies can include the need to promote professionalism or another purpose that is business related. There may be other behaviors that are regulated pursuant to the jurisdiction in which the business is located. 

Can an Employer Monitor Employees' Use of Office Equipment?

The ability to monitor employees' usage of office equipment varies from state to state. In most states, employers that provide their employees with a place to work and the equipment they need to perform their job duties have the right to monitor employees' use of that equipment. 

Most states also allow employers to keep track of their employees' texts, telephone conversations, and use of the company computer. Employers can even limit devices from allowing access to certain sites. 

As far as monitoring tangible objects, employers can look through filing cabinets and desks as well as other items and objects in an employee's office. Again, the extent of what an employer can do varies from state to state. An employer is best advised to seek counsel before implementing these policies.

Can an Employer Monitor an Employee's Social Media?

Most employers have a policy against using social media while an employee is at work and/or using a company computer. They may even have rules regarding what an employee can say about the company as social media posts by employees are reflective of the company itself. 

When an employee violates these company policies, the employer has the right to terminate the employee's employment in most situations and under the at-will doctrine.   

Employers should be aware that monitoring the social media accounts of employees, especially when that employee is not on the job, is an area of the law that has been hotly contested. To ensure they are compliant with the law of their jurisdiction, an employer is best advised to seek advice from a lawyer experienced in this area. 

What Responsibilities Do Employers Have in California?

Employers do have various responsibilities towards their employees. While these responsibilities vary state-to-state, there are some, which are listed below, that are considered to be standard in most states.

No Employee Discrimination Allowed

Pursuant to federal law, employers are not allowed to discriminate against employees. Unfair treatment due to any of the following is prohibited:

  • Color
  • Race
  • Religion
  • Pregnancy
  • Sex
  • Disability

Retaliation against an employee who complained about discrimination is also prohibited.

Compliance with Workers' Compensation Laws

The workers' compensation system is designed to provide injured workers with the financial compensation they need while they convalesce from an on-the-job injury, illness, or disease. The insurance is paid for by the employer, but once again, rules and coverage vary state-to-state.

To Provide a Safe Working Environment

The Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) mandates that employers provide employees with a safe workplace that complies with certain standards, including proper safety training and appropriate equipment and tools. 

Employers must also promote a work environment that is free from all forms of sexual harassment, including advances of or requests for sexual conduct. 

Comply with the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA)

The FMLA is a federal law designed to protect an employee's job if they take an extended leave of absence from work. This includes maternity leave, illness, or caring for a sick family member. Employers are required to comply with this federal statute.

Contact an Employment Law Attorney in San Diego Today

Employers in California have rights, but you also have responsibilities. Sometimes there is a fine line between the two. Get smart legal advice or legal representation today to make sure your business runs smoothly and any potential legal challenges are avoided or addressed immediately and properly. Contact Polek Law today to schedule a consultation with our employment law lawyer. We are here to keep your business in business.

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At Polek Law, we focus on Civil Litigation, Class Actions, and Non-Profit Corporations and we are here to listen to you and help you navigate the legal system.

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Polek Law is committed to answering your questions about Civil Litigation, Class Actions, and Non-Profit Corporations law issues in California. We'll gladly discuss your case with you at your convenience. Contact us today to schedule an appointment.