Breaking Down California Employment Laws for the Cannabis Industry

A.W. Naves
August 12, 2023

In the ever-evolving landscape of California's business regulations, employers must stay well-versed in the intricacies of California employment laws. Whether operating a dispensary, a cultivation facility, or any other cannabis-related business, understanding these laws is paramount to ensuring a successful and compliant operation.

Failing to adhere to these regulations can lead to substantial fines and legal repercussions. The fine for some employment law violations in California can be as much as $25,000 per violation, highlighting the financial risks involved in non-compliance.

Cannabis-Specific California Employment Laws

Let’s first take a look at cannabis-specific California employment laws.

A California cannabis employee is touching a growing cannabis plant.

Minimum Age Requirement for Cannabis Employees

California employment laws stipulate specific age requirements for employees in the cannabis industry. All individuals must be at least 21 years old due to the legal age restriction for cannabis consumption. This includes individuals working in both touching and non-touching roles.

Required Certifications in California

Employees working in various roles within the cannabis industry often require specific certifications. While the owner of the dispensary must possess a valid seller's permit from the California Department of Tax and Fee Administration (CDTFA), there is no requirement that employees possess a permit or any professional certifications for employment.

Employee Background Checks

Conducting background checks on prospective employees is permitted in California, but there are restrictions. Employers must adhere to the state's Ban the Box law, which restricts inquiries about an applicant's criminal history until later in the hiring process. Moreover, convictions that are unrelated to the job in question and convictions that have been expunged cannot be considered during the hiring process.

Security Requirements for Cannabis Businesses

Cannabis businesses have stringent security requirements to ensure the safety of both staff and customers. While the need for an armed guard on-site may vary based on the specific business type and location, maintaining robust security measures is essential. This can include surveillance systems, alarm systems, and access controls to prevent unauthorized entry. Security measures must include the prevention of access to employees and products from unauthorized personnel.

Required Training for Cannabis Businesses in California

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) guidelines apply to cannabis businesses, emphasizing the importance of maintaining a safe work environment. Cannabis businesses with two employees or more must have at least one member of management and one employee complete an OSHA 30-hour health and safety module

Additionally, the account manager at your cannabis facility must complete training for the track and trace system that will be used to maintain compliance with cannabis regulations.

A California cannabis employee is taking payment at the counter.

General California Employment Laws

In addition to the laws that specifically apply to the cannabis industry, you will be required to adhere to regulations governing general employment practices and payroll for both salaried and nonexempt employees.

Meal Breaks

California labor law mandates that employees receive a 30-minute meal break for every five hours of work. If an employee works more than 10 hours, they are entitled to a second 30-minute meal break. The break can be unpaid, but it must be uninterrupted and fall within the first five hours of your employee beginning their shift. If an employee works less than 6 hours in a day, the break can be waived.

Employees can choose to waive a single meal break if they work less than 12 hours in a day and did not waive their first meal break. However, failure to provide these breaks can result in penalties for employers that include a full hour of pay for every missed break.

Rest Breaks

In addition to meal breaks, employees are entitled to a rest break lasting at least ten minutes for every four hours worked. Employers are not allowed to combine breaks into one longer break and cannot penalize or discourage employees from taking breaks, but an employee can choose to voluntarily skip any breaks they like.

Two California cannabis employees are on their required meal break.

California Minimum Wage

Currently, the minimum wage in California varies based on the size of the business and the location. While the state-mandated minimum wage is currently $15.50 per hour, many cities and counties have set higher wages for their municipality. It is crucial to keep abreast of changes in minimum wage requirements to ensure compliance.

At-Will Employment

California follows an at-will employment doctrine, which means that employers can terminate an employee for any reason, as long as it is not discriminatory or in violation of other protected rights. Similarly, employees can leave their jobs at any time without giving a reason.

Pay Transparency

California has taken strides toward pay transparency by enacting laws that require companies to provide information about salary ranges for job positions. If your company has 15 or more total employees, including part-time positions, you are required to post the expected salary for job openings as a part of the employment posting.

This requirement applies whether all or only one of your employees will be employed in California. This promotes transparency in compensation and helps combat pay inequality.

Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment prevention training is mandatory for employers with five or more employees. Your sexual harassment program must include the following considerations:

  • Prevention and stoppage of sexual harassment.
  • Set policies and procedures regarding sexual harassment.
  • Posted employment harassment posters.
  • Distribution of sexual harassment literature.
  • Manager and employee sexual harassment training.

More information about the specific requirements for training can be found here.

Stay Compliant With KayaPush

Staying compliant with California employment laws is an ongoing and essential responsibility for cannabis business owners. Not only does it mitigate the risk of hefty fines, but it also fosters a positive work environment and ensures the well-being of both employees and customers. To simplify the process of managing people and maintaining compliance, consider leveraging solutions like KayaPush.

As a dedicated partner to cannabis businesses, KayaPush offers the tools and resources that facilitate HR management while keeping you informed about the latest employment law developments. By prioritizing compliance and nurturing a legally sound workplace, cannabis business owners can pave the way for sustained success in this dynamic industry.

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August 2023


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