Arcata, CA asked in Employment Law and Native American Law for California

Q: I work for a Native Tribe, but the business is off reservation. Do CA labor laws still apply? They refuse to pay my PTO

They are my former employer. I left 3 months ago and they still have not paid out my PTO

1 Lawyer Answer
James L. Arrasmith
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  • Native American Law Lawyer
  • Sacramento, CA
  • Licensed in California

A: In this situation, California labor laws generally still apply, even though your former employer is a Native Tribe and the business is located off the reservation. California law requires employers to pay out accrued, unused vacation time (PTO) upon termination of employment, regardless of the reason for separation.

Here are a few key points to consider:

1. Tribal sovereignty: Native American tribes have sovereign immunity, but this typically applies to matters within the reservation. If the business is located off the reservation, state laws are more likely to apply.

2. California labor laws: California requires employers to pay out accrued, unused PTO upon termination of employment (Labor Code Section 227.3). This should be done immediately upon termination, and failure to do so can result in waiting time penalties.

3. Steps to take: You can file a wage claim with the California Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE) to seek your unpaid PTO. You may also want to consult with an employment attorney to discuss your options and potential legal recourse.

It's important to gather documentation related to your employment, such as your employment contract, employee handbook, pay stubs, and any correspondence with your former employer regarding your PTO payout. This information will be helpful if you need to file a wage claim or take legal action.

Remember that while the tribal status of your former employer may complicate matters slightly, California law is generally on your side in this situation, and you have the right to receive your earned PTO.

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