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Employment Offer Letter: California

Author: Katherine Hinde, Littler

When to Use

An employer can use this letter when offering at-will employment to its desired candidate in California. If the employment offer is contingent upon the prospective employee meeting certain conditions, consider sending a follow-up letter once the conditions are satisfied.

Customizable Letter

[insert organization's logo, name and address]

[insert date]

[insert recipient's name]

[insert recipient's physical address (and/or email address if applicable)]

Subject: Employment Offer

Dear [insert recipient's name]:

[insert the Company/Organization name as listed on the letterhead or signature] ("Company") is pleased to extend to you this conditional offer of [insert if prospective employee is hired as a temporary employee: temporary] employment to work in the [insert full-time or part-time] position of [insert job title of position offered] in our [insert name of division or department]. This offer is contingent upon completion, to the Company's satisfaction, of efforts to confirm your suitability for this position, which includes the preemployment checks and reviews as described in this letter. [insert the following language if there are enclosures: To enable us to conduct thorough checks and other reviews, please fill out the enclosed documents and return them to us as soon as possible.]

This position is [insert exempt or nonexempt] and reports directly to [insert name of the person the prospective employee will report to, e.g., supervisor's name].

Pending satisfactory completion of our preemployment checks, your anticipated start date is [insert date]. Please be advised that the Company's main business address and telephone number is [insert address and telephone number].The Company's normal business hours are [insert business hours].

Compensation and Benefits

Base Compensation: Should you decide to accept this offer,

[insert one of the following provisions as applicable:

[Option 1 - if prospective employee is classified as exempt: your initial annualized base salary will be [insert base salary, e.g. $100,000], or [insert monthly, semimonthly or weekly rate, e.g., $2,430 semimonthly].]

OR

[Option 2- If prospective employee is classified as nonexempt: your pay rate will be [insert dollar amount, e.g. $15.00] per hour, [optional, if not temporary: insert dollar amount to be paid on an annual basis, e.g., $45,000, for straight time work]. You will be paid at least on a [insert the following as applicable: semimonthly or weekly] basis, or sooner.]]

[OPTIONAL: You will receive your earned compensation at [insert address or detailed description of place where employee will receive payment, e.g. HR Department] [[OPTIONAL: at approximately [insert approximate time of payment on payday, e.g., 5:00 p.m.]].] Your [insert your salary or pay rate] may be adjusted from time to time, including through increases, in the Company's sole discretion.

[insert one of the following provisions as applicable:

[Option 1 - if prospective employee is classified as exempt: This position is an exempt position, which means you are paid for the job and not by the hour. Accordingly, you will not receive overtime pay. Your salary is intended to compensate you for all hours worked. [OPTIONAL: Your work hours may vary from week to week depending on the Company's needs.]]

OR

[Option 2 - if prospective employee is classified as nonexempt: This position is a nonexempt position, which means you will be paid overtime in accordance with applicable state and federal law. [OPTIONAL: if new hire's schedule is generally set: Your schedule will be [insert schedule OR if schedule is varied: Your schedule will be provided to you by your supervisor.]] The needs of the Company may require that you occasionally work past your regular departure time or otherwise outside of your regular work hours. [OPTIONAL: [insert number] hours a day constitutes a regular day's work.] You will be expected to record your actual start and end times each day, as well as the start and end times of your meal breaks. You will be provided with and expected to take an unpaid meal break each day, before completing five hours of work for not less than 30 minutes. You will also be provided with at least a 10-minute paid rest break for each four hours you work, or major portion thereof.

Attached to this offer letter is a Wage Notice that provides additional information regarding the Company and your rate of pay, as required by law. If your primary language is not English, please provide that information prior to your first day of employment so that we may comply with the requirements of California's Wage Theft Prevention Act.

[OPTIONAL: Other Compensation: This offer includes [insert any specifics regarding equity based compensation, if applicable, e.g., executive deferred compensation plans, retention bonuses, other bonus plans, executive incentive plans.] The foregoing compensation arrangements are subject to the terms and conditions established under any applicable plans and/or policies of the Company, as such may be amended from time to time, and, if applicable, subject to approval by [insert e.g. compensation committee or board of directors or other].]

Vacation/PTO: [insert one of the following provisions, as applicable:

[Option 1 - if vacation/PTO is accrued: You will begin to accrue [insert vacation and/or PTO] [insert upon your date of hire or provide a description of when vacation and/or PTO starts to accrue] at a rate of [insert rate of accrual].]

OR

[Option 2 - if vacation/PTO is received but not accrued: You will be allotted [insert number] of [insert weeks and/or days] of vacation/PTO per year which you can begin to use [insert immediately or provide a date].]

OR

[Option 3 - if individual is ineligible for vacation/PTO: You will not be eligible for vacation/PTO.]]

[OPTIONAL: insert any additional details consistent with company policy.]

Carryover, if any, and payout of [insert vacation/PTO] upon termination, if any, will be governed by the Company's [insert paid time off policy or the name of the appropriate policy] in effect at the time of carryover and/or termination. The Company's [insert name of the appropriate policy mentioned above, e.g. paid time off policy] is subject to change at the Company's discretion.

Benefits: In your position, [insert one of the following provisions, as applicable:

[Option 1- insert if a prospective employee is ineligible for benefits: You will not be eligible for any additional employee benefits.]

OR

[Option 2 - insert if prospective employee will be eligible for benefits: You will be entitled to participate in the Company's employee benefit plans and arrangements on the same terms and conditions as other similarly situated employees. Enclosed with this offer letter, you will find a benefits enrollment packet offered by the Company and copies of summaries of the employee benefit plans in which you may be eligible to participate. Your eligibility to participate in any employee benefits plans and the terms of your participation will be governed by the governing plan documents and nothing in this letter can modify those provisions of the plans. For additional information regarding the Company's employee benefit plans, you may contact Human Resources [or insert name/contact details for appropriate company representative or department].]

OR

[Option 3 - insert if will provide prospective employee with additional information about employee benefits once the offer is accepted: Upon your acceptance of the offer, we will provide you with additional information regarding the employee benefits offered by the Company.]]

Tax and Other Withholding

The amounts of compensation described in this letter are before taxation or other withholdings required or permitted by law. The Company reserves the right to withhold all applicable federal, state and local income, Social Security and other employment taxes, along with any other amounts of required withholding, from all amounts of compensation and other remuneration payable to you, whether as direct compensation or pursuant to any of the compensation or benefit plans in which you may participate.

Guidelines for Employment

If you accept this offer and become an employee of the Company, you will be subject to our employment policies and [insert any other relevant policies]. In addition, the Company reserves the right to modify the compensation or benefits arrangements described in this letter or otherwise maintained by the Company, and also reserves the right to modify your position or duties to meet business needs and to use its discretion in deciding on appropriate discipline. [OPTIONAL: if have an employee handbook: Upon hire, you will be required to read and sign an acknowledgement of receipt of the Employee Handbook and any applicable state supplement.]

The Company is an at-will employer. At-will means that an employee may resign at any time with or without advance notice to the Company and with or without cause. Likewise, the Company may terminate an employee at any time with or without advance notice and with or without cause. Except for the [insert the title of the person with authority to change the at-will status, e.g. CEO], no director, manager, supervisor or representative of the Company has any authority to enter into any agreement for employment for any specific period of time or to make any agreement contrary to the foregoing. Only the [insert the title of the person with authority to change the at-will status, e.g. CEO] of the Company has the authority to make any agreement contrary to the foregoing and then only in writing. Nothing in this letter should be read to alter the at-will nature of your anticipated employment with the Company.

Offer Contingencies

This offer is contingent upon the following: [insert any of the following applicable contingencies on the offer:

  • Signing the Company's [insert applicable agreements, e.g., nondisclosure agreement, arbitration agreement].
  • Successful passage of a drug and alcohol screening, consistent with federal, state law and local law.
  • Successful completion of a background investigation, consistent with applicable federal, state, and local law, including, but not limited to, [insert applicable types of background checks, e.g., a background check of employment, education history, criminal history, credit history, verification of driving record for placement on Company's insurance policy].
  • Verification of the information contained in your employment application, including satisfactory results in the verification of references.
  • Confirmation that you are not subject to any legal restrictions on your activities (see below).
  • Accepting this offer in writing within [insert number] business days of the date of this letter.
  • [insert any other applicable contingencies].]

This offer will be withdrawn (whether or not you have already signed it) if any of the above conditions are not satisfied. Unless and until all such steps have been completed, this conditional offer of employment may be withdrawn and you should not resign from your current employment, otherwise alter your employment status, or alter any personal circumstances in reliance on this conditional offer. Generally, the screening process takes [insert the length of time anticipated to complete the background screening, i.e, number of days and/or weeks]. If you have any questions regarding where we are in the screening process, please do not hesitate to contact me.]

Restrictions on Employment

By signing this offer letter, you represent and warrant that you are not party to any agreement or subject to any policy applicable to you that would prevent or restrict you from engaging in activities competitive with the activities of your former employer or from directly or indirectly soliciting any employee, client or customer to leave the employ of, or transfer its business away from, your former employer, or if you are subject to such an agreement or policy, you have complied and will comply with it, and your employment with the Company does not violate any such agreement or policy. You further confirm that you will not remove or take any documents or proprietary data or materials of any kind, electronic or otherwise, with you from your current or former employer to the Company without written authorization from your current or former employer. If you have any questions about the ownership of particular documents or other information, discuss such questions with your former employer before removing or copying the documents or information.

Acceptance

This offer will remain open until [insert the date the offer will remain open until]. To indicate your acceptance of the Company's offer on the terms and conditions set forth in this letter, please sign and date this letter in the space provided below and return it to me no later than that date. Upon receipt of your signed acceptance of this offer letter to Human Resources [or insert name/contact details for appropriate company representative or department], will contact you to begin your onboarding processes.

This letter and the enclosed [insert description of applicable enclosures], constitutes the entire agreement between you and the Company relating to this subject matter and supersedes all prior or contemporaneous agreements, understandings, negotiations or representations, whether oral or written, express or implied, on this subject. Except as provided herein, this letter may not be modified or amended except by the Company's [insert the title of the person at the company that can alter the terms of the offer letter, e.g., the President of the Company].

On your first day of employment, please be sure to bring your documentation or an acceptable receipt for a document establishing your identity and eligibility for employment in the US. If you are unable to provide such verification within three business days of the date your employment begins, your employment may be terminated.

We hope your employment with the Company will prove mutually rewarding, and we look forward to having you join us. If you have any questions, please feel free to call me at [insert phone number].

[insert closing (e.g., Sincerely, Very truly yours)],

[insert handwritten signature (for a mailed letter) and typed signature]

[insert sender's title]

*    *    *

By signing below, I acknowledge that I have been furnished with a copy of this offer and that I understand and agree to the terms set forth above. I understand that I will be an at-will employee and that nothing in this document is intended to create a contract of employment or alter the at-will nature of my employment.

Acknowledgement and Acceptance of Terms:

______________________________________________________________________

Signature

______________________________________________________________________

Print Name

______________________________________________________________________

Date

[Insert enclosure line as applicable (e.g., Enclosure or Enclosures)]

Tips

Take care to read through this letter completely and to customize it where appropriate.

An employer may revoke a written offer of at-will employment before the prospective employee begins work. An employer that revokes an employment offer prior to the start date will generally not incur liability, even if the prospective employee has relied on the job offer to his or her detriment.

All California employers must pay all wages earned by nonexempt employees at least twice a month on regular paydays designated in advance. The salary of exempt employees may be paid once a month on or before the 26th of the month in which the worked is performed, if the entire month's salary, including the portion yet to be earned from the 26th through the end of the month, is paid at that time. More frequent wage payments are permitted. Paydays must be designated in advance.

Some states require employers to notify employees of their pay rates at time of hire. The definition of pay rate can vary per state. If an employee will be paid by a method other than by salary or hourly (e.g., such as commission, per task, on a piece rate, board and lodging allowances, etc.), you may consider describing that in the offer letter. Further, certain methods of payment may require an additional written agreement between the employer and the employee. For example, California requires separate commission agreements for certain employees paid by commission. If you are enclosing any documents regarding an alternative method of payment, you should reference the document in your description.

If an employer includes information in the letter about vacation and/or PTO, the employer must make sure that such information is consistent with company policy and federal, state and local law (e.g., paid sick leave). Employers should also ensure that any required new hire notifications under state and local paid sick leave laws are provided.

If an employer includes with the offer letter materials regarding fringe benefits, such materials should be reviewed by the personnel responsible for administration of any such benefit and by counsel for compliance with applicable federal, state and local laws.

Information on benefits should not be included in any offer letter without having an attorney specializing in the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) review it in conjunction with a review of the governing documents for any employee welfare or pension benefit plans sponsored by the employer.

In addition, if a prospective employee is considered ineligible for benefits, and a statement to that effect is included in an offer letter, it is best to have ERISA counsel confirm that there is a viable basis for excluding the prospective employee from employee benefit plans generally. This is often a problem where the employer believes that an employee or a class of employees is "benefits ineligible" or some other comparable categorization, but it then turns out that they are not actually excluded from the employer's benefit plans under the terms of the governing documents. In that situation, the plan may be disqualified and/or there may be very costly corrections required to maintain plan qualification under the tax rules. It can also lead to be a breach of fiduciary duty (failure of company to follow terms of their plans).

An employer must provide plan summaries and plan enrollment packets immediately upon an employee's eligibility to participate. Failure to timely provide plan summaries and other plan information could expose the employer to additional liabilities such as (but not limited to) daily penalties and required contributions.

The sender's address usually is included in letterhead. If not using letterhead, include the sender's address at the top of the letter one line above the date. Do not write the sender's name or title, as it is included in the letter's closing. Include only the street address, city and ZIP code.

Although the above acknowledgement is not required, it is a recommended best practice.

Warnings

This letter is not meant to be a comprehensive new hire packet. It may touch upon notices required at hire, but an employer should still check state and/or local laws to ensure compliance with notices required on the first day of work and should have the final draft of the letter reviewed by counsel.

If an employee's schedule will be varied, check any applicable state or local laws requiring predictable scheduling to determine how far in advance the schedule must be provided and if any special notices are required.

If an offer is contingent upon certain agreements (e.g., restrictive covenants, arbitration agreements, commission agreements, etc.), check state and local laws to make sure they are allowable and if they are, whether there are any particular requirements or procedures that must be followed. For example, in California, noncompete agreements are generally not enforceable. Further, certain states require employers to give notice of the agreement before the start of employment (e.g., at the time of the offer).

Before conducting any background checks, review federal, state and local law requirements and/or limitations regarding an employer's use of credit and criminal history in hiring decisions. In most cases, a background check requires that an applicant sign a separate authorization form. However, numerous jurisdictions prohibit certain types of background checks entirely. It is important to be aware of these limitations and requirements before conducting such background checks or notifying offerees that they will be subject to them. Further, check state and local laws to determine if drug screening is permitted.

If an employer wishes to insert additional contingencies upon an offer of employment, the employer should first check state and local laws to ensure that any additional contingencies do not run afoul of those laws and to determine if additional notices are required in accompaniment with such contingencies.

California requires an employer to provide non-exempt employees with a Wage Theft Prevention Notice (California Notice to Employee, Labor Code Section 2810.5) upon hire. The notice is available in multiple languages.

If an employer includes in their offer specifics about "other compensation", e.g., executive deferred compensation plans, retention bonuses, other bonus plans, executive incentive plans, the employer should make sure that all such specifics are reviewed by the personnel responsible for the administration of such plans/programs and legal counsel to ensure compliance with applicable tax and securities laws, any applicable state or local laws and for consistency with corporate governance requirements.

Since this letter does not cover laws requiring the provision of paid sick leave or other leave, it should be examined in conjunction with any applicable laws.

Please take steps to ensure that the time off benefits described in this letter are consistent with company policy and federal, state and local law.

State and local laws have differing requirements for the methods and frequency of paying employees. This offer letter does not analyze the legality of a company's chosen payment method. Further, this letter does not analyze whether an employee is properly classified as exempt or nonexempt.

Additional Resources

Employment Offer: California

Payment of Wages: California