CalChamber Employment Law Experts Review Questions on Minimum Wage Ordinances, Maternity Leave

Last week, the CalChamber’s employment law experts joined The Workplace podcast to share the most common questions they are asked concerning medical leaves of absence. Today, the experts are back to discuss other frequently asked questions. In this episode of The Workplace podcast, CalChamber Executive Vice President and General Counsel Erika Frank, and CalChamber employment law experts Bianca Saad and Matthew Roberts review questions on minimum wage ordinances and maternity leave.

Minimum Wage Ordinances

In California, there is a state minimum wage, but numerous localities have established their own minimum wage rate as well. In fact, in 2020 more than 30 localities will establish minimum wage rates that will be higher than the state minimum wage. The varying minimum wage rates apply depending on where employees work, and not necessarily where a business is located, Saad explains.

Saad recommends that employers stay vigilant on this issue, since the trend of localities establishing their own minimum wage is only rising and not dissipating. has a thorough section that is solely dedicated to local ordinances. The website provides information for businesses to determine if they are subject to a local ordinance, what their minimum wage rate is, additional rules to follow (such as poster requirements), and record retention requirements, among other resources, Saad tells Frank.

“[Local ordinances] vary just enough to be dangerous to where just because you know what the rules are of one minimum wage or other local ordinance, it does not mean that that’s going to be the case for the next city over,” Saad says.

In fact, Saad often hears questions from businesses—especially in the Bay Area—about being subject to ordinances from multiple localities. The laws become difficult to navigate as ordinances generally apply to employees who work as little as two hours or more per calendar week in the locality.

“If you’ve got employees who are spending time in various localities, you really have to track to know, ‘Ok, the employee worked x number of hours for this particular pay period, at this particular rate, versus…the city over,’” Saad says.

To avoid the administrative headache, and risk of penalties and civil suits, businesses often end up paying the highest minimum wage applicable across the board, she tells Frank.

Maternity Leave

“Maternity leave” is an umbrella term for a patchwork of laws that apply to new parents in California. The laws—Paid Family Leave (PFL), Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), California Family Rights Act (CFRA), New Parent Leave Act (NPLA), Pregnancy Disability Leave (PDL)—can all start sounding like alphabet soup, Roberts tells Frank.

The laws may become confusing for employers and employees because the laws provide different coverage and can overlap with one another. For example, Roberts explains, FMLA, CFRA and NPLA provide a protected leave of absence, while PFL is a wage replacement that requires a filing with the California Employment Development Department (EDD) and is not a leave of absence. PDL on the other hand, may be taken for up to 4 months, but only if the birthing parent has a medical condition verified by physician documentation.

When talking about maternity leave, Roberts recommends that employer choose their words and acronyms carefully as each law has its own meaning. In fact, before he delves into questions on maternity leave, Roberts often asks employers to review HRCalifornia’s charts and tools on the subject.

For employers who are trying to navigate through the parental leave laws, Roberts recommends that they first consider what laws apply to them, as leave laws depend on the number of employees a business has, and learn about how the different parental leaves interact with each other. provides multiple resources, including an interactive wizard, that explain state and federal parental leave laws.

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The California Chamber of Commerce is the largest, broad-based business advocate to government in California, working at the state and federal levels to influence government actions affecting all California business. As a not-for-profit, we leverage our front-line knowledge of laws and regulations to provide affordable and easy-to-use compliance products and services.