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Quick and Easy Guide to Labor & Employment Law: Hawaii

This state-specific guide covers labor and employment case law, statutes, rules, and regulations that HR professionals and clients often encounter or have questions about in Hawaii.

At-Will Employment

The employer/employee relationship is governed by the at-will employment doctrine. Parnar v. Americana Hotels, Inc., 65 Haw. 370, 652 P.2d 625 (1982). This means that either party may terminate the relationship at any time, with or without cause, and with or without notice. The Hawaii Whistleblower Protection Act is an exception to the at-will doctrine and provides a cause of action against employers who wrongfully discharge an employee because the employee objected to or refused to participate in the employer's illegal practices. Haw. Rev. Stat. § 378-62.

Right-to-Work Laws

Hawaii does not have a right-to-work statute. Instead, Hawaii's statutes protect the right of employees to self-organize and form unions and prohibit any interference with this right. Employees have a right of self-organization and a right to form, join, or assist a labor organization. An employer cannot interfere with, restrain or coerce an employee's right to organize.

Immigration Verification

Hawaii employers are required to comply with all federal immigration laws. Hawaii does not have a law that separately addresses immigration verification. E-verify is voluntary for employers in Hawaii.

Drug Testing

Hawaii laws and regulations do not require any employer to conduct drug or alcohol testing. Hawaii law does mandate how tests should be conducted, to the extent an employer wishes to drug test its employees. Hawaii is a "mandatory" state, which means any private employer wishing to conduct drug and/or alcohol testing of non-regulated employees must do so according to the state constitution, statutes, regulations, local ordinances and court decisions that apply. Haw. Rev. Stat. §§ 329B-1 to 8. Employers must use licensed testing laboratories. An employee may refuse to submit to drug and alcohol testing, but in that case the employer may take adverse action against the employee including discharge. 

Jury Duty Leave

An employer may not discharge, penalize, threaten or otherwise coerce an employee who receives and/or responds to a jury summons or who serves on a jury. Haw. Rev. Stat. § 612-25. Employers are not required to pay an employee on jury duty service. 

Voting Leave

Hawaii does not currently have a law establishing a right to voting leave.

Parental Leave

Employers with more than 100 employees must provide employees with parental leave.  An employee is entitled to four weeks of family leave during any calendar year upon the birth of a child of the employee or adoption of a child. Haw. Rev. Stat. § 398-3. The leave may be taken intermittently, and is unpaid. 

Other Leave

The State of Hawaii does not require employers to provide employees with sick leave benefits, either paid or unpaid. If an employer chooses to provide employees with sick leave benefits, the employer must provide employees written notice of the terms of the policy. Haw. Rev. Stat. § 388-7. In Hawaii, employers are not required to provide employees with vacation benefits, either paid or unpaid. If an employer chooses to provide such benefits, it must comply with the terms of its established policy or employment contract. An employer must provide employees written notice of the terms of its vacation policy. Haw. Rev. Stat. § 388-7.

Smoking Laws

Under Hawaii law (HRS 328J), smoking, including electronic smoking devices also known as e-cigarettes, is prohibited in all enclosed or partially enclosed areas of places of employment.

Break Time to Express Milk

Hawaii Breastfeeding in the Workplace Act prohibits discrimination against a lactating employee. Haw. Rev. Stat. § 378-2. The law requires that employers in Hawaii support breastfeeding employees by providing break time and a space (other than a bathroom) to express milk at work. Haw. Rev. Stat. §§ 378-91, 92, 93; Breastfeeding mothers are also exempt from jury duty. Employers with fewer than 20 employees may be exempt from the requirement to provide break time and a location shielded from view if the employer can show that the requirements would impose an undue hardship on the employer.

Meal Breaks

In Hawaii, the only requirement for breaks is found in the Hawaii Child Labor Law under Haw. Rev. Stat. § 390-2(c)(3), which requires that employers provide to minors 14 or 15 years of age a 30-minute rest or meal period after five consecutive hours of work.

Minimum Wage

Hawaii's minimum wage, effective January 1, 2018, is $10.10 per hour. Haw. Rev. Stat. § 387-2.

Final Payments

Under Haw. Rev. Stat. § 388-3(b), when an employee quits or resigns, the employer shall pay the employee's wages in full no later than the next regular pay day, except that if the employee gives at least one pay period's notice of intention to quit, the employer shall pay all wages earned at the time of quitting.

Unemployment Insurance

Unemployment insurance benefits provide income to individuals who have lost work through no fault of their own. The website to establish employment insurance benefits or reopen an existing claim is uiclaims.hawaii.gov.

Workers' Compensation

The Hawaii Worker's Compensation law was enacted in 1915, and its purpose is to provide wage loss compensation and medical care to those employees who suffer a work-related injury. The law requires the employer to provide certain benefits without regard to the fault of the employer and prohibits an employee from filing civil action against the employer for work-related injuries or illnesses. Any employer, other than those excluded (Haw. Rev. Stat. § 386-1), having one or more employees, full-time or part-time, permanent or temporary, is required to provide workers' compensation coverage for its employees. The injuries covered are listed at Haw. Rev. Stat. § 386-3.

Additional Laws & Regulations

Record Keeping

Hawaii has specific laws regarding the time and manner in which certain records must be maintained:

  • Payroll data: including information on rate of pay, hours, straight time earnings, overtime earnings, deductions, authorizations for deductions, total wages per pay period, tax withholding forms. Haw. Rev. Stat. §§ 371-11, 387-6 and 388-7
  • Child labor: Copies of minors' certificates of employment and age must be retained for as long as the minor is employed. Upon separation, the document must be returned to the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations. Haw. Rev. Stat. § 390-3.
  • Benefit information: including records of all work-related injuries and illnesses, as well as medical and other records pertaining to workers' compensation claims; and copies of any Waiver of Health Care Coverage. Haw. Rev. Stat. §§ 386-95, 386-96 and 393-21.
  • Employment records: including recruitment and hiring records (advertisements, vacancy announcements and postings, referrals, employment applications and/or resumes, dates of hire); training or apprenticeship; records regarding a change in status (promotions, demotions, transfers); documents on employee separations (layoffs, resignations, terminations, and date of separation). Haw. Rev. Stat. §§ 371-11, 378-6(b) and 383-94(c).
  • Occupational injuries and illnesses: including documents pertaining to safety and health programs; records of deaths, injuries and illnesses. Haw. Rev. Stat. § 396-6(e).
  • Physical addresses: including former and current addresses, as well as the applicable North American Industry Classification System code. Haw. Rev. Stat. § 371-11.

Reference Immunity

Under Hawaii law, employers and their authorized designees are presumed to be acting in good faith and are immune from civil liability when they make disclosures at the request of a current/former employee, or any prospective new employer, regarding factual information or opinion about the current or former employee's job performance. Haw. Rev. Stat. § 663-1.95. The presumption of good faith can be rebutted only by showing that the employer intentionally disclosed information it knew was false or misleading. Also, the Hawaii Supreme Court has refused to recognize a claim of defamation based on a former employee's need to communicate the reason for his or termination to a prospective employer. Gonsalves v. Nissan Motor Corp.,58 P.3d 1196 (Haw. 2002).

Domestic Violence

An employer employing 50 or more employees shall allow an employee to take up to 30 days of unpaid victim leave from work per calendar year, or an employer employing not more than 49 employees shall allow an employee to take up to five days of unpaid leave from work per calendar year, if the employee or the employee's minor child is a victim of domestic or sexual violence; provided the leave is to either: seek medical attention for the employee or employee's minor child to recover from physical or psychological injury or disability caused by domestic or sexual violence; obtain services from a victim services organization; obtain psychological or other counseling; temporarily or permanently relocate; or take legal action. Haw. Rev. Stat. § 378-72.

Child Labor Laws

Hawaii law defines a "minor" as any person under the age of 18 years. Except in limited situations (theatrical work and coffee harvesting), minors must be at least 14 years of age to begin working, and minors under the age of 18 years may not work in positions that are considered "hazardous" and will have limitations on work schedule. Haw. Rev. Stat. §§ 390-2 and 390-3.

Wage Rate Discrimination Prohibited

Employers cannot discriminate in the payment of wages between sexes or employ a person at pay rate less than what an employee of the opposite sex earns for substantially similar work (skills, effort, responsibility and similar working conditions.) Haw. Rev. Stat. § 378-2.3.

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Guide last updated July 2021.

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