California labor laws refers to the set of laws related to employment protection and rights of workers that are mandated by the State of California. If you work in California, your rights as a worker are protected by California labor laws. If you are an employer, you must conduct your business and treat your employees in alignment with California labor laws.
There is no gray area; any place of work in California must follow that state’s labor laws. While there are exemptions for certain types of employees concerning minimum wage, rest breaks, meal breaks, and overtime pay, this does not mean that employees are also exempt from all California labor laws.
Why are they important?
In general, an understanding of labor laws in whichever state you live or work in is always a plus. Knowledge of your rights as a worker equips and empowers individuals to be confident in the workplace. This also prevents them from being placed in work environments that are not up to par with the minimum standards of labor.
California is the U.S. state with the highest number of people. With it being the most populated state in the country, this means its labor laws are also the most implemented in the U.S. With this, California labor laws are in the foreground when it comes to labor laws. California labor laws are often cited because the state’s labor laws are generally much more favorable to the rights of workers. They are arguably one of the most pro-worker labor laws in the U.S. California labor laws also have several differences between federal law.
I work in California. Do I need to know all of the California labor laws? What are the most important?
As we have said, it is an advantage to know your rights as a worker. However, there are numerous guidelines under the California labor laws that may be difficult to remember all. Focusing on some laws that are most referenced is helpful.
It is important to note that laws can be amended every year. To be sure, always check for any updates on the California labor laws to make sure that you are always up to date and in the know.
We will also mention some commonly cited California labor laws in this article.
What is the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA)?
The California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) is the law that protects workers against any form of discrimination, harassment, and retaliation in employment. If you are an employer with five or more employees (full-time or part-time), all of the anti-discrimination provisions of California’s FEHA, apply to you.
California’s FEHA forbids discrimination in all aspects of employment-based on the following:
Race: this includes characteristics and traits that are historically associated with a race like hairstyles and hair texture, among others.
Gender identity and gender expression: this includes pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding, and/and any other related medical conditions.
Medical conditions: this includes genetic traits, cancer, or a record or history of cancer.
Military or veteran status
Disability: this includes mental and physical disabilities, including HIV/AIDS and cancer.
Aside from the aforementioned guidelines, the FEHA also forbids harassment and retaliation against:
Any individual who is making a complaint under FEHA;
Any individual who is assisting another person in making a complaint;
Any individual who stands up against action in the workplace which they think is a violation of the FEHA.
Furthermore, the FEHA requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations to their workers in case of pregnancy, childbirth, religious practice, and disability. If there is a dispute, the burden of proof is on the employers to prove that they are unable to do so.
What do California labor laws say about wages, overtime, and pay disclosure?
Under California labor laws, workers may discuss compensation freely with their employers. Employers cannot prohibit them from discussing pay and must not discriminate against employees who do.
Here are the minimum wage guidelines in California as of January 2, 2021:
The minimum wage is $14.00 for employers with 26 or more employees.
The minimum wage is $13.00 for employers with 25 or fewer employees.
If you are an employee, remember that it is illegal for California employers to pay their employees less than the minimum wage. This is a higher amount compared with the federal minimum wage ($7.25 an hour). California employers must pay the state minimum wage.
Here are the California labor law guidelines on overtime:
Employers must pay time-and-a-half (1.5x the employee’s normal hourly wage) for non-exempt employees who worked:
Over 8 hours in a single day
Over 40 hours in one week
For the 7th consecutive workday
Employers must pay double the employee’s normal hourly wage for employees who worked:
Over 12 hours in a single day
Over 8 hours on the 7th consecutive workday
Here are the California labor law guidelines on rest breaks:
Employers must provide a paid rest break for every 4 hours of work. This rest break is 10 minutes.
Employers must provide a meal break every 5 hours. This meal break is 30 minutes.
During rest breaks, employers may not require employees to stay on the office premises.
Employees may not require employees to work during rest breaks.
What do the California labors laws say about whistleblower protections?
A “whistleblower” is an individual who exposes or discloses information to a government agency or authority about any violation of or non-compliance with any state or federal rule. A whistleblower can also report unsafe working conditions and employment. In California, it is prohibited for employers to discriminate or retaliate against employees or past employees who are whistleblowers. Implementing policies or regulations that would discourage employees from whistleblowing is also not allowed.
What do California labor laws say about final paychecks?
Under California labor laws, if an employee is fired, the employee’s final check must be given on the same day. However, if an employee resigns, the employer is given 72 hours after the employee’s last day of work to process and give the final paycheck.
What is the notification of COVID-19 Exposure (AB 685)?
In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, all California employers are obligated to give written notice to all employees who may have been exposed to the COVID-19 virus. It is to be given within one day of notice of the potential exposure and must be written both in English and in the language understood by the majority of employees. Under this law, the employer must also provide information regarding benefits related to COVID-19 under federal, state, and local laws.
The California labor laws are extensive. We recommend going to the California Department of Labor website for more information. While this article aims to inform, it is still best to seek professional legal help for assistance on problems, complaints, and guidance.
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