August 14, 2014

Even SpaceX is Vulnerable to California Employment Law

entering clalifornia employment lawThey say misery loves company, and in California, it loves companies. It never ceases to amaze me that any employer who dares to work in the Golden State would not know about the convoluted California employment laws governing everything from how many hours employees can work per day without overtime, to what HAS to happen if an employee misses a meal break on a six-or-more hour shift.

Hear about the SpaceX lawsuit yet? Apparently Elon Musk’s uber-cool and uber-publicized California company, the pioneering private venture in space travel and space transport, is being sued by former employees over matters such as employee breaks and unpaid overtime.

Now, you might answer my amazement at Mr. Musk’s CA-employment-law naivete with something like, “Well, Paul, Elon Musk is a CEO at the highest level! He’s got dozens of middle managers overseeing this wage and hour stuff. He’s probably even working with the very best and largest payroll company in the state. Surely any mistakes are in someone else’s court.”

And I’d answer, “Well, then I’m amazed over and over and over again. In fact, I’m amazed once for each of those people at Elon Musk’s payroll company who live, work, and run a business in California and yet don’t know all about the arduous, complicated rules that must be followed and the flame-encircled hoops CA employers must jump through each and every day their employees come in (or don’t come in) to work!”

Who knows what happened in this case. All snarkiness aside, though, you really don’t need to have hundreds of employees to get into big trouble with Wage and Hour rules. JUST ONE is enough to get the ball rolling straight towards you and your business, Temple-of-Doom style.

Now Mr. Musk, usually the envy of millions, has a class action lawsuit on his hands, just as you would if you were a California employer at some tiny indie surf shop – or some small independent medical practice with eight or fewer employees – and made the exact same mistake. The difference between Elon Musk and your average practice is that his settlement will be larger.

Everybody has to follow the rules…


Friendly Disclaimer: This information is general in nature, and is not intended to replace good counsel about a specific issue with either your attorney or your favorite HR Sherpa. And if you ARE a California employer, doctors and their office managers can call CEDR at 866-414-6056 or email We’ve got free compliance guidance just for you!

Friendly Disclaimer: This information is general in nature and is not intended to provide legal advice or replace individual guidance about a specific issue with an attorney or HR expert. The information on this page is general human resources guidance that is believed to be current as of the date of publication. Note that CEDR is not a law firm, and as the law is always changing, you should consult with a qualified attorney or HR expert who is familiar with all of the facts of your situation before making a decision about any human resources or employment law matter.

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