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Who Is an Employer Under California Law?

California law provides over 100 different definitions of ’employer’

By Chris Micheli, September 28, 2022 3:50 pm

One of the key principles in legislative drafting is consistency in language, including definitions. In looking at who is an employer, there lacks the same definition across state law. In fact, California law provides over 100 different definitions of “employer” 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 “employer” found in different Codes:

Government Code Section 22960.18 – “Employer” means the State of California.

Government Code Section 20030 – “Employer” means the state, the university, a school employer, and any contracting agency employing an employee.

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

Business and Professions Code Section 7580.8 – “Employer” means a person who employs an individual for wages or salary.

Government Code Section 22970.175 – “Employer” means any city, county, city and county, district, school district, community college district, county superintendent of schools, or other public agency, instrumentality, or political.

Unemployment Insurance Code Section 678 – “Employer” means any employing unit which pursuant to a collective bargaining agreement between an employer and a labor organization in the motion picture, radio, or television industry, pays wages.

Labor Code Section 1132.2 – “Employer” means a person, partnership, firm, corporation, association, or other entity, which employs any person or persons to perform services for a wage or salary.

Unemployment Insurance Code Section 675 – “Employer” means any employing unit, which for some portion of a day, has within the current calendar year or had within the preceding calendar year in employment one or more employees and pays wages. 

Labor Code Section 4616.5 – “Employer” means a self-insured employer, joint powers authority, or the state.

Revenue and Taxation Code Section 19852 – “Employer” means any California employer who is subject to, and is required to provide, unemployment insurance to his employees.

Code of Civil Procedure Section 706.011 – “Employer” means a person for whom an individual performs services as an employee.

Labor Code Section 4558 – “Employer” means a named identifiable person who is, prior to the time of the employee’s injury or death, an owner or supervisor having managerial authority to direct.

Government Code Section 12950.3 – “Employer” means a hotel or motel.

Health and Safety Code Section 50205 – “Employer” means a person or entity who has petitioned, or will petition, to import an H-2A worker pursuant to Section 1188 of Title 8 of the United States Code to work.

Government Code Section 12950.1 – “Employer” means any person regularly employing five or more persons.

By the way, “small employer” is also used in several instances in California law:

Health and Safety Code Section 1357.500 and Insurance Code Section 10753 – “Smaller employer” means an entity that employed at least one, but no more than 50, eligible employees, the majority of whom were employed within this state.

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