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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

In Hawaii, 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); Haw. Rev. Stat. § 378-3. This means that either party may terminate the relationship at any time, with or without cause, and with or without notice. Hawaii does, however, recognize some exceptions when a termination violates a clear mandate of public policy grounded in judicial opinions, constitutional law, statutes, and regulations. The Hawaii Whistleblower Protection Act is also an exception to the at-will employment doctrine and provides a cause of action against employers who wrongfully discharge an employee because the employee reports or was about to report the employer for a suspected violation. 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-organization and form, join, or assist a labor union organization. Haw. Rev. Stat. § 377-4. An employer may neither interfere with an employee's right to organize nor restrain or coerce an employee from exercising their guaranteed rights. Haw. Rev. Stat. § 377-6.

Immigration Verification

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

Drug Testing

Hawaii laws and regulations do not require an employer to conduct drug or alcohol testing. To the extent an employer wishes to drug-test its employees, Hawaii law does mandate how tests should be conducted. 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. If an employee refuses to submit to drug and alcohol testing, the employer may take adverse action against the employee up to and including termination of employment.

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 by law to pay an employee on jury duty service.

Voting Leave

Hawaii does not currently have a law establishing a right-to-voting leave. The state repealed its voting leave law in 2020 after shifting to vote by mail for all elections.

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. The leave may be unpaid and taken intermittently. Haw. Rev. Stat. § 398-3.

Other Leave

Hawaii does not require employers to provide employees with sick leave benefits, whether 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. Similarly, employers are not required to provide employees with vacation benefits, whether paid or unpaid. If an employer chooses to provide such benefits, they must comply with the terms of their established policy or employment contract. An employer must provide employees with written notice of the terms of its vacation policy. Haw. Rev. Stat. § 388-7. Bereavement leave is also not required by Hawaii law. Employers may choose to provide bereavement leave and may be required to comply with their stated policy.

Smoking Laws

Under Hawaii law, smoking, including using electronic smoking devices also known as e-cigarettes, is prohibited in all enclosed or partially enclosed areas of places of employment. Haw. Rev. Stat. §§ 328J-1, 328J-4.

Break Time to Express Milk

The 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. 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 statutory requirement for breaks pertains to minors. Haw. Rev. Stat. § 390-2(c)(3) requires that employers provide minors (14 or 15 years old) with a 30-minute rest or meal period after five consecutive hours of work. The Hawaii Department of Labor and Industrial Relations specifies, however, that rest breaks of 5 to 20 minutes are compensable as hours worked. If an employer provides a meal break, the period is not compensable if it is 30 minutes or more, or if the employee is completely relieved of duty. More information can be found at: DLIR: Breaks: Meal & Rest.

Minimum Wage

Hawaii's minimum wage, effective October 1, 2022, is $12.00 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 payday, 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

Hawaii's Workers' 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. Any employer, other than those excluded under Haw. Rev. Stat. § 386-1, having one or more employees, no matter their status, is required to provide workers' compensation coverage for its employees. Employers are required to provide certain benefits without regard to the employer's fault. Further, employees are prohibited from filing civil actions against the employer for work-related injuries or illnesses. 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: A record must be kept of information on rate of pay, hours, straight-time earnings, overtime earnings, deductions, authorizations for deductions, total wages per pay period, and tax withholding forms. Haw. Rev. Stat. §§ 371-11, 387-6, and 388-7.
  • Child labor: Copies of minors' certificates of employment and ages 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: This information includes 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: A record must be kept of recruitment and hiring records (advertisements, vacancy announcements and postings, referrals, employment applications and/or résumés, dates of hire); training or apprenticeship; a change in status (promotions, demotions, transfers); and documents on employee separations (layoffs, resignations, terminations, and dates of separation). Haw. Rev. Stat. §§ 371-11, 378-6(b) and 383-94(c).
  • Occupational injuries and illnesses: Documents to be kept include those pertaining to safety and health programs and records of deaths, injuries, and illnesses. Haw. Rev. Stat. § 396-6(e).
  • Physical addresses: Former and current addresses, as well as the applicable North American Industry Classification System code, must be kept. Haw. Rev. Stat. § 371-11.

Reference Immunity

Under Hawaii law, employers and their authorized designees are presumed to act 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 their termination to a prospective employer. Gonsalves v. Nissan Motor Corp.,58 P.3d 1196 (Haw. 2002).

Domestic Violence

An employer with 50 or more employees shall allow an employee to take up to 30 days of unpaid victim leave per calendar year. An employer with no more than 49 employees shall allow an employee to take up to five days of unpaid leave per calendar year. Victim leave is available to an employee if the employee or the employee's minor child is a victim of domestic or sexual violence and 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 relating to the domestic violence. 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 may not work in positions that are considered "hazardous" and will have limitations on the work schedule. Haw. Rev. Stat. §§ 390-2, 390-3.

Wage Rate Discrimination Prohibited

Employers cannot discriminate in the payment of wages between sexes or employ a person at a 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 October 2022.

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