By Sue Allred – Center ED and Senior Professional in Human Resources / SHRM-SCP

Disclaimer – I am not an employment attorney and this document should not be considered Legal Advice Warren Buffet once said, “Risk comes from not knowing what you are doing.” Ignoring ever-changing HR Law or “winging it” could mean fines or legal fees that close your center down. Why?
  • California employment law is complex
  • Compliance is challenging
  • California is a litigious state
  • Mistakes are costly
Here are some areas most likely to land you in hot water:
  1. Labor Law Postings – There are several labor laws which have a posting requirement as part of the law. You are subject to up to $20,000 in fines if an auditor enters and sees no postings.  Eight of the eighteen required notices reflect mandatory updates effective January 1, 2023.  Also, you must post the Wage Order specific to the industry. You will need postings at each work location (includes multiple clinic sites, a mobile clinic, and if you have someone who works remotely 100% of the time, they will need a copy for their work area). Do not order these from mail solicitations (Personnel Concepts is one that comes to mind).  They will sell you a cheap poster, then bill for recurring “updates” and unnecessary extras.    A good source I recommend to my clients is the California Chamber of Commerce:
  1. Employee Handbook – This will be the first thing requested in an employment lawsuit. Do you have one?  When was the last time it was updated? (Hint: if it has not been done in the past year or two, it is likely out of date). DO NOT use a template found on the internet or the models provided by NIFLA, Care Net or Heartbeat. These documents are not bad but are created for nationwide use and do not cover the intricacies of California Law.
  1. Ensure Compliancy with all HR Laws – Non-profits often believe they have special exemptions. The only difference from a for-profit business is that the non-profit is exempt from taxes (paying them, but not from regulatory filings with tax entities…that is a story for another day!). The only exception is the restricted hiring to members of the Christian Faith, provided you are incorporated as a religious 501(c)(3). However, you may NOT discriminate against any of the other protected characteristics. The chart attached to this document can help you determine which HR laws apply to your organization based on size.
  1. Classify and Pay People Correctly
    • Minimum wage for the state just went up to $15.50/hour. Many local jurisdictions have passed a higher minimum wage (mostly in the Bay Area and San Diego).
    • Minimum wage for “white collar” exempt employees is now $64,480.
    • CA minimum wage for licensed physicians and surgeons’ exemption is now $97.99.
    • Make sure you know the difference between an “exempt” and “non-exempt” employee (commonly thought of as salary vs. hourly). An employee is not exempt unless they meet BOTH the salary and duties test. If you misclassify and pay someone exempt (a salary, not eligible for overtime, etc.) it can be classified as “wage theft” and the fines are EXTREMELY high.
    • Since the passage of AB 5, independent contractors are now almost non-existent. Make sure you know the rules if you believe someone qualifies as a contractor rather than an employee.
    • Do not fall into the “this is a ministry and we pay a stipend” trap – this has long gone by the wayside.
  1. Watch your Employees’ Time Issues
    • You cannot control an employee’s time outside of their work. If you are in the habit of texting/calling during off hours, the employee should record that time on their timecard, even if it is a minimal amount.
    • Be aware of meal and break rules and follow them! Make sure an employee is paid a missed meal or break premium whenever it is applicable, and that premium time is listed on the paycheck stub.
    • Make sure all non-exempt employees complete an accurate timecard for each pay period. They should use actual time (time in, out for lunch, etc.) rather than rounding. There should be a space for them to sign that they attest it is an accurate record and they were afforded their rest breaks (on the clock, they do not sign out). Ensure employees understand there is to be no “off the clock work” i.e., they sign out, but continue to work on a document.
    • Be careful that any employee who does “volunteer work” for the center is clear on what is regular work (their job description should match) and what is volunteer work. They CANNOT put in extra hours on a volunteer basis.
  1. Failing to Address and Document Poor Performance – Rewarding poor performance often feeds a lawsuit, and lack of documentation will fund the lawsuit (results in higher settlements/fines if you can’t prove you addressed the issues). Always address performance issues immediately and document! While many of us dislike confrontation, avoiding the issue will only cause more problems.
  1. Insufficiently Trained Supervisors and Managers
    • Invest in your supervisors and managers.
    • Teach HR 101 basics – timekeeping, meal and rest breaks, protected time off, protected classes, reasonable accommodations.
    • It is critical for managers and supervisors to know when employees are “off-limits” due to a protected leave. Often, because we view ourselves as a ministry and want to love people, we violate these areas (i.e., desiring to care for them as they go through difficulties, asking about medical conditions, deaths in the family, etc.)
    • Teach coaching and communication skills, especially via email. An email is a written communication subject to interpretation and is discoverable under evidence laws in the case of a lawsuit.
Finding Professional HR Assistance is a Must – Both your Executive Director and/or Operations Manager (depending on their job description) AND at least one Board Member should be versed in Basic HR and have a professional available to guide through legal updates, handbook issues for discretionary policies, and complicated issues (extended leave management, job accommodations, etc).   Here are some sources for you to find help:
  • Right to Life League of Southern California has resources and training for their members.
  • You can reach out to the California Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM) closest to you and look for consulting firms or independent consultant.
  • You can reach out to me, Sue Allred, with questions at