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Who Is an Employee Under California Law?

Is this lack of a consistent definition problematic?

By Chris Micheli, September 28, 2022 7:08 am

One of the key principles in legislative drafting is consistency in language, including definitions. In looking at who is an employee, there lacks the same definition across state law. In fact, California law provides over 100 different definitions of “employee” throughout the Codes. Is this lack of a consistent definition problematic?

It could be, but it emphasizes the point that some terms are limited to their use in an individual Code (there are 29 of them in California), or even in a particular subset of a code (e.g., division, title, chapter, etc.). The following is a sampling of different definitions of “employee” found in different Codes:

Government Code Section 18526 – “Employee” means a person legally holding a position in the State civil service.

Education Code Section 26118 – “Employee” means a person engaged to perform creditable service.

Business and Professions Code Section 7580.9 – “Employee” means an individual who works for an employer, is listed on the employer’s payroll records, and is under the employer’s direction and control.

Health and Safety Code Section 1596.880 – “Employee” means employee of a licensee or employee of the agent of a licensee subject to this act.

Labor Code Section 1132.4 – “Employee” means any person who performs services for wages or salary under a contract of employment, express or implied, for an employer.

Government Code Section 54700.5 – “Employee” means an an employee of the local agency, the state or any political subdivision thereof, special district, including a school district, or any other local government entity.

Labor Code Section 6304.1 – “Employee” means every person who is required or directed by any employer to engage in any employment or to go to work or be at any time in any place of employment.

Unemployment Insurance Code Section 13004 – “Employee” means a resident individual who receives remuneration for services performed within or without this state or a nonresident individual who receives remuneration for services performed.

Education Code Section 89572 – “Employee” means any person employed by the California State University.

Code of Civil Procedure Section 1299.3 – “Employee” means any firefighter or law enforcement officer represented by an employee organization.

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