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California Seasonal Employment Laws

January 23, 2023 Legal Team

State labor laws protect all workers in California, including those that only work seasonally.

What are Seasonal Employees?

Seasonal employees are typically hired in positions for a short period to help with increased work demands that arise during different times in the year and in different industries—for example, retail (e.g., holiday season), tourism (e.g., spring, summer, holidays), or farming (e.g., harvest). The period of employment for a seasonal job is typically six months or less within one year, but the length can be as short as a few weeks.

Protections for Seasonal Employees

Seasonal employees are covered by most of the same employment laws that apply to nonseasonal employees, including provisions for the following:

Wages and Hours

Seasonal workers have the right to earn minimum wage and overtime or double pay when applicable.

Health and Safety

Employers must have an effective injury and illness prevention program (IIPP) that includes training and instruction on safe work practices. In addition, seasonal employees have the right to refuse hazardous work.

Sick Time

Seasonal employees can accrue at least one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked. However, there are some types of employees who are not entitled to sick leave, including construction employees, home health care workers, aviation cabin crew members from certain airlines, and workers who are under a collective bargaining agreement and earn more than 30% of California’s minimum wage.

Workers’ Compensation

Seasonal employees are entitled to workers’ compensation benefits if they suffer an injury on the job.


Seasonal workers have the right to report incidents of discrimination or wage or safety violations without facing retaliation from an employer.

Rest and Meal Breaks

Seasonal workers have the right to an unpaid meal break of at least 30 minutes if working more than 5 hours, a second if working longer than 10 hours, and 10-minute breaks for every 4 hours worked.

These are only some of the employment rights seasonal employees have by law. One exception is the Family Medical and Leave Act (FMLA). To qualify for FMLA leave, employees must, among other things, have worked at least 12 months for an employer.

My Seasonal Employee Rights were Violated, Now What?

Depending on how your rights were violated in the workplace, the action you take can differ. For example, California employees who are victims of any sort of discrimination can file a claim with the Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH). Whereas if it is a wage and hour violation, a claim can be filed with the Department of Industrial Relations (DIR).

Additionally, you may also have the ability to pursue a civil claim against your employer to recover compensation related to the violations of your rights. For instance, lost income, lost benefits, pain and suffering, and in some cases, punitive damages. The amount of compensation you can receive will vary depending on the unique facts of your case. To find out and discuss your rights and legal options, arrange a free consultation with an Orange County employment law attorney.