Insider’s Scoop: 5 Little-Known Employment Rights Every Seasonal Worker Should Be Aware Of


Nima Javaherian
Nima Javaherian is an employment attorney who graduated from Harvard. Nima felt a pull towards representing the individual – the employee facing discrimination, the worker wronged by their employer. He pivoted his career, channeling his expertise into employment law. 

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As a seasonal employee, navigating the employment landscape can pose challenges, especially when it comes to understanding your rights in these roles. Many employees are unaware of the fundamental entitlements they hold. This guide aims to demystify the legal complexities surrounding seasonal employment. From fair wages to workplace safety, termination, and more, we’ll explore the five crucial rights every seasonal worker deserves. Empowering you with this knowledge ensures you can confidently assert your entitlements in your seasonal work journey.

Seasonal Workers may be Eligible for Paid Sick Leave

Under the Healthy Workplaces, Healthy Families Act of 2014 (the “HWHFA”), which is embodied in Labor
Code Sections 245-249, California employers must provide paid sick days to eligible employees. In
addition, under the HWHFA, employers are required to (i) include accrued sick leave balances on their
employees’ itemized wage statements, and (ii) post a notice regarding the law at the workplace.
Notably, this act applies universally to California employers, irrespective of size, and offers no
exemptions for tax-exempt or nonprofit organizations.

Sick Pay Accrual and Eligibility

Employees typically accrue sick pay at a rate of one hour for every 30 hours worked, barring specific
exceptions. Crucially, the HWHFA lacks exemptions for part-time, temporary, or seasonal employees.
Moreover, it prohibits employees from waiving sick pay for alternative benefits, like a higher pay rate.

Limitations and Eligibility Criteria

The HWHFA contains certain limitations on employers’ obligations with respect to the accrual and use of
sick days. The limitation that is most likely to impact seasonable employees is the requirement that an
employee work at least 30 days in order to be eligible for paid sick days under the HWHFA. As such,
seasonal employees who work 30 days or more for a California employer are eligible to accrue sick days.

Employer’s Authority and Implementation

In addition, the HWHFA does not require employers to permit an employee’s total accrual of paid sick
leave to exceed 48 hours. Further, employers are permitted to (i) cap the amount of accrued sick pay
that an employee can carry over to the next year of employment, (ii) restrict paid sick leave usage to
three days annually and (iii) mandate a 90-day employment period before utilization. In order for an
employer to avail itself of the limitations and caps described in the HWHFA, the employer must
incorporate such limitations and caps in its employment policies.

Earned Wages Must be Paid Immediately Upon Termination, Subject to Exceptions

As a general matter, a California employer who terminates an employee, must immediately pay to the employee all wages that have been earned by the employee. This obligation applies to seasonal employees (subject to the exceptions described below), including the following instances:

An employer hires an employee to complete a specific task, and then discharges the employee following completion of such task.

An employer hires an employee for a pre-determined period of time, the time period expires, and the employer discharges the employee.

Seasonal employees in certain industries are excepted from the general rule regarding immediate payment upon termination. In particular, employers who terminate seasonal employees working in the following industries are not required to immediately pay all earned wages to such employees: the curing, canning or drying of perishable fruit, fish, or vegetables. The law requires that such employers only pay such employees within such reasonable time as is necessary for the computation and payment of the wages. “Reasonable time” can be up to 72 hours.

Seasonal Employees are Entitled to the same Minimum Wage, Meal and Rest Breaks and Overtime Protections as Other Employees

There are certain inalienable rules that apply to all eligible workers in California, whether they are temporary, seasonal, full-time or part-time. For example, the minimum wage rules that apply to general workers also apply to seasonal and temporary workers. In addition, all eligible workers in California have the right to an unpaid meal break of at least 30 minutes if working more than five hours, as well as a second meal break if working more than 10 hours. Eligible workers also have the right to a ten-minute break for every four hours worked. Applicable overtime rules (including the potential for double pay) also apply to seasonal workers.

Temporary Service Employers Have Additional Notice Obligations

Under the California Labor Code, at the time of hiring, employers are required to provide employees with a written notice that contains certain information. This information includes, among other things, (i) the rate of pay and basis therefor, (ii) allowances claimed as part of the minimum wage, (iii) name of employer, (iv) physical address and telephone number of the employer and (v) that an employee: may accrue and use sick leave; has a right to request and use accrued paid sick leave; may not be terminated or retaliated against for using or requesting the use of accrued paid sick leave; and has the right to file a complaint against an employer who retaliates.

There are special rules for temporary services employers. A “temporary services employer” is an employing unit that contracts with clients or customers to supply workers to perform services for the clients or customers and that performs all of the following functions:

(A) Negotiates with clients and customers for matters such as the time and place where the services are to be provided, the type of work, the working conditions, and the quality and price of the services.

(B) Determines assignments or reassignments of workers, even if workers retain the right to refuse specific assignments.

(C) Retains the authority to assign or reassign a worker to another client or customer when the worker is determined unacceptable by a specific client or customer.

(D) Assigns or reassigns workers to perform services for clients or customers.

(E) Sets the rate of pay of workers, whether or not through negotiation.

(F) Pays workers from its own account or accounts.

(G) Retains the right to hire and terminate workers.

Under California law, if the employer is a temporary services employer, the notice described above must also include the name, the physical address of the main office, the mailing address if different from the physical address of the main office, and the telephone number of the legal entity for whom the employee will perform work. In addition, the notice must include any other information the Labor Commissioner deems material and necessary. The requirements of this paragraph do not apply to a security services company that is licensed by the Department of Consumer Affairs and that solely provides security services.

Anti-Discrimination Laws apply to Seasonal Employees in California

Seasonal employees in California are unequivocally entitled to protection under the state’s robust anti-discrimination and harassment laws. These laws safeguard individuals from unfair treatment based on protected characteristics, such as race, gender, age, religion, disability, and more. Regardless of the temporary nature of their employment, seasonal workers enjoy the same legal protections against discrimination, harassment, and retaliation as full-time employees. Employers are mandated to uphold a safe and respectful workplace environment for all employees, fostering inclusivity and prohibiting any form of discriminatory actions or harassment against seasonal workers.

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