Is your church keeping up on compliance with California labor law?

Is your church keeping up on compliance with California labor law?

At least five important changes in labor laws will affect many churches in California, in addition to an increase in state minimum wage and local wage laws. All changes should be reflected in updated policies maintained in the church’s Employee Handbook and/or Policies and Procedures Manual.

Here is a synopsis of the most important changes:


Two new laws enacted in 2017 took effect January 1. The first, referred to as the “ban the box” law, prohibits any employer with five or more employees (full- or part-time) from asking about or considering an applicant’s prior criminal convictions before making a conditional offer of employment. And if taking any “adverse action” following a criminal background check performed after making an offer, definite steps must be followed and notices given to avoid being charged with unfair discrimination. The second law prohibits employers from asking about an applicant’s prior salary history, including bonuses or benefits, either on the application or in a pre-employment interview, and also requires the employer to disclose upon request a position’s pay scale to any applicant. The law does not prohibit asking an applicant his or her compensation expectations.


For a number of years, California law has mandated stringent rest and meal break requirements, and imposes a penalty of one hour of pay – paid to the employee – every time an employee is unable to take or complete a mandatory break period (missing both a rest and meal break entitles the employee to an additional two hours of pay for the day). There are exceptionally tight restrictions on waiving breaks or what employees can be required to do during a break period. Generally, employers should review their policies to ensure that:

  • Employees are aware of their meal and rest break entitlements.
  • Employees record the time they begin and end each meal break.
  • Employees who are not able to take a meal or rest break because of work requirements report this on their timesheets and are paid as required.

A new law for 2018 allows the Labor Commissioner to initiate investigations concerning retaliation against employees for their exercise of certain employment rights. Additionally, the Labor Commissioner has increased the auditing of employer time and payroll records in its pursuit of violators. Churches are not immune from such audits and, without formal payroll records, can expect to receive notices of noncompliance which can mean fines and other penalties.


Businesses, including churches, with 50 or more employees (full- or part-time) must add content to their mandatory supervisors’ sexual harassment training concerning “gender identity, gender expression, and sexual orientation harassment prevention.” Churches can expect that such training will eventually be required for all employees. Given recent media attention on the topic, compliance in this area is critical if a church is to operate within guidelines.


California businesses, including churches, with 20-49 employees are now required to provide “eligible workers” with up to 12 weeks of “baby-bonding leave.” Although the leave does not have to be paid, employers who provide health insurance must continue to provide health insurance to the employee during the 12-week period. California has had a Pregnancy Disability Leave (PDL) requirement for several years, which covers female employees, not their husbands. Baby-bonding leave is for mothers or fathers under the California Family Rights Act (CFRA).

Churches with five or more employees are required to provide a mother-to-be or new mother up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave if the mother/mother-to-be is disabled due to her pregnancy. Churches with 50 or more employees are also subject to the federal Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which has been in existence for more than 20 years.


Many churches fail to maintain records of working hours, including when rest and meal breaks are taken, and are not immune from “enforcement audits.” Churches that have no formal recordkeeping process or have only informal records should immediately implement a formal system of timekeeping. Most employees are now entitled to accumulate one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours of work, and are entitled to accrue up to at least 48 hours of paid sick leave, which must carry over into the next year if unused by December 31 – the accumulated hours cannot be forfeited, but they are also not compensable at termination of employment.

A number of cities and counties have adopted additional minimum wage and paid or unpaid leave laws, notably San Francisco, Oakland, Santa Monica, Los Angeles and unincorporated portions of Los Angeles County.

What is the easiest way to remain up-to-date with major compliance matters? Subscribing to the CSBC Employer Handbook Builder program from BLR is one of the easiest and most economical methods. Policies like these will automatically update. CSBC’s discounted subscription price is $200, a savings of more than $100. For more information or to subscribe, contact Max Herr with CSBC Human Resources & Church Compliance Ministry at 559-256-0858 or

This Convention serves our culturally diverse congregations as we fulfill the Great Commandment and the Great Commission.