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1. Don’t judge me. -_-…So the other day I was chatting with another HR Pro about state laws 1, and at one point she commented that “opening a business in California is like opening a business in another country”, going on to say that having a California designated SPHR certification is a table stakes requirement for any HR Leader hoping to make informed policy recommendations around how to manage the workforce.

Ergo, this morning I started to do a little bit of research examining the differences between HR in California and HR everywhere else, assuming I’d find significant but not mind-blowing variations. Imagine my surprise then when I found the following:

California Employees Must be Paid Immediately at the Time of Discharge:
In California, if an employer discharges an employee, the wages earned and unpaid at the time of discharge are due and payable immediately. For each violation of this rule, an employer must pay $200 per employee, plus 2. See section’s § 201. and § 210. of the California labor code here.25% of the amount unlawfully withheld. 2

The “Exemption Test” is much higher in California than elsewhere:
Under the standard outlined in the FLSA (and most other states), the executive overtime exemption is defined by a number of factors, but mainly focuses on one’s “primary job duties and responsibilities.” Conversely, California’s executive exemption requires exempt employees to (i) earn at least 2xs the 3. $9 an hour and going to $10 in 2016.state’s minimum wage 3, (ii) supervise two or more employees, and (iii) spend 50% or more of their time on exempt activities. This can easily lead to situations like Heyen v. Safeway wherein employees are misclassified by an employer as exempt in California, even if that designation might have held true had that business been open almost anywhere else.

Meal and Rest Periods:
In contrast to federal law, in California an employer may not employ an employee for more than five hours per day without providing said employee with a meal period of at least thirty minutes. If an employer fails to comply, the employee must be paid one hour of pay at their regular rate of compensation for each workday that the meal period is not provided. Failure to pay this penalty (referred to as a meal period premium) on the paycheck that the violation occurred can – as in the case of failing to pay wages at the time of discharge – result in additional penalties.

…I spent about an hour and a half reviewing California Labor and Employment Law before I became convinced that running a business there like one might run it anywhere else in the country can result in significant fines and 4. Depends on if you’re the employer or employee, I suppose.penalties. I am not saying that this is good or bad 4 – it just is what it is.

With that said, revisiting our original question: As an HR pro can one learn enough to protect one’s business through good old-fashioned independent learning, or is the SPHR or some other professional training required?

As always, please share your thoughts in the comments section below.