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California State Labor Laws
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California Labor Law lawsuits allege violations of California state labor laws such as overtime pay, discrimination and harassment. California labor employment law protects the rights of California employees, and as of 2014, many new laws further protect new immigrants. The California labor code includes issues such as overtime pay, meal and rest breaks, tip pooling laws, vacation laws and more. California labor law also includes California prevailing wage laws that ensure workers on California public improvement projects are not underpaid.
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California Overtime Labor Laws
California and Federal Employment labor laws secure an employee's civil rights to overtime pay and benefits while protecting against workplace harassment and discrimination. California law states that hours worked beyond eight hours per day qualify for overtime pay of one-and-one-half times the regular hourly wage.
California has unique state overtime pay laws that protect employees from working extensive hours. With differences between state labor law and federal regulations on overtime pay, employers (especially multi-state corporations) often may, either accidentally or intentionally, incorrectly classify employees to avoid paying overtime wages and therefore violate California labor laws.
As of July 1, 2014, the minimum wage in the state of California is increased to $9 per hour from $8 per hour. As of January 1, 2016, it will be raised one more dollar to $10 per hour. The law requires employers to give notice to their employees seven days prior to the effective date via a pay notice or other written notice.
This increase also affects exempt employees. Most of the California wage exemptions require that exempt employees earn a monthly salary equivalent to no less than two (2) times the state minimum wage. With the minimum wage increase to $9, exempt employees will have to earn $3,120.00 per month to qualify for the exemption. This means that employers should undertake a compensation review of their exempt employees to ensure compliance with the new California labor law requirements.
An employer who fails to pay the new minimum wage will be required to pay liquidated damages to the employees in addition to the existing penalties. “Liquidated damages” is financial compensation awarded to an employee for a loss or injury resulting from the employer’s failure to pay the minimum wage.
Meal and Rest Breaks
The California Labor Code § 226.7 prohibits employers from requiring employees to work during meal or rest periods.
Employees can sue for violations of California meal and rest break provisions going back a period of three years. In addition, it is likely that employees would be able to go back a total of four years under unfair competition laws. Previously, the DLSE (“California Labor Board”) had restricted the claims to only a one-year period.
• During a five-hour workday, an employee is required to receive a 30-minute break.
• During a 10-hour workday, an employee is required to receive two 30-minute breaks.
• If the workday is no more than six hours, the meal break may be waived by mutual consent of both the employer and employee.
• During more than 10 hours a day, a second meal period of not less than 30 minutes is required. If the total of hours worked is no more than 12 hours, the second meal period may be waived by mutual consent of the employer and employee only if the first meal period was not waived.
• Rest Breaks: California labor law requires that non-exempt workers receive a 10-minute paid rest period for every four hours worked. It is recommended that the rest period be in the middle of the work period. If an employer does not provide a rest break, California labor law states that the employer shall pay the employee one hour of pay at the employee's regular rate of pay for each workday that the rest period is not provided.
Individuals employed in agriculture and outdoor work such as landscaping and farming are now legally entitled to sufficient rest breaks (minimum five minutes in the shade, on an “as needed” basis) when temperatures exceed 85 degrees Fahrenheit. This new law applies to everyone, including illegal immigrants, who now have a number of rights and protections under Bill 263.
If an employee does not receive the proper meal and rest periods, including the new “recovery periods” or “cool down period afforded an employee to prevent heat illness,” the employer must pay to the employee one hour of pay as a penalty. Employers are advised to review California OSHA recommendations to preventing heat illness.
California OvertimeCalifornia overtime laws require non-exempt employees be paid one-and-one-half times their regular rate of pay for any hours worked over eight in a day or 40 in a week. Furthermore, non-exempt employees should be paid two times their regular rate of pay for hours worked over 12 in a day or over eight on the seventh day of a workweek.
According to California labor law, overtime pay is based on hourly wages, salaries, shift differentials, non-discretionary bonuses and commissions. Failure to include those when determining overtime pay is an overtime bonus violation.
California Exempt Employees & MisclassificationFederal overtime pay laws established in 2004 set out who should be paid overtime wages for overtime hours worked. Unfortunately, some employers misclassify their employees as exempt from overtime, either due to a lack of understanding of the exemptions or to save money. Either way, if the employee is not exempt from overtime pay, he should receive one-and-one-half times his regular hourly wages when he works more than eight hours in a day or more than 40 hours in a week.
One way to determine whether an employee is eligible for overtime pay is the "duties test," in which the work being done—and not the job title—is taken into consideration. To be exempt from overtime, an employee must do work that is mainly administrative, professional or executive in nature. This means performing work that is non-manual, related to management policies, involves discretion and judgment, directs other employees, and be paid salary.
In other words, it is not enough to simply give someone a job title with the word “administrative” in it to exempt that person from overtime. The employee must be involved in administrative job duties to be exempt.
Domestic Work Employees
As of January 1, 2014, the Domestic Worker Bill of Rights provides for specific overtime pay for certain in-home employees; i.e., “domestic work employee who is a personal attendant.” In-home care givers and individuals who require in-home care should study Bill AB 241 to determine whether the new law applies to them because it includes specific definitions and exclusions.
As of January 2014, The California Bill of Rights (AB 241) extended overtime protections to domestic service employees (also known as personal attendants) who care for and support individuals and families in California. Casual babysitters are not included in AB 241.
Domestic workers are due time-and-a-half (overtime pay) for any work performed beyond nine hours in a day or beyond 45 hours in a week. All domestic workers are eligible for this overtime pay rate with the exception of babysitters under the age of 18, or individuals who work irregularly or intermittently as babysitters.
Prior to January 2014, domestic service employees were not covered by California’s overtime provisions.
Outdoor Workers, Including Illegal Immigrants
Bill No. 263 prohibits an employer from engaging in “unfair immigration-related practices” when an employee asserts protected rights under the Labor Code. For instance, if you are an illegal immigrant and complain to your employer that you are not receiving minimum wage ($9 per hour as of July 2014), your employer may not threaten to report you to immigration authorities. An employer who violates the new California labor laws is liable for a civil penalty up to $10,000 per employee for each violation.
New Immigration Protections
New laws prohibit employers from reporting, or threatening to report, an employee’s immigration status to the immigration authorities.
AB 263 prohibits an employer from engaging in an “unfair immigration-related practice” when an employee exercises a right protected under state labor and employment laws. An employer may not request additional immigration documentation, use E-Verify when not authorized, threaten to file or filing a false police report, or threaten to contact or contacting immigration authorities.
AB 666 allows the state to suspend or revoke an employer’s business license if the employer reports, or threatens to report, the immigration status of a current or former employee, or an employee’s family member, because that employee makes a complaint about employment issues.
Car Wash Industry
Employers in the car wash industry must post a $15,000 bond for the benefit of the state to compensate employees damaged by the employer’s nonpayment of wages. The employer is exempt from the bond it a collective bargaining agreement is in place that meets specified criteria.
California Prevailing Wage & Underpaid WorkersCalifornia construction projects—such as highway improvements, school construction or repair, work on city or county buildings, or bridge construction—are often paid for with public funds. California workers who provide labor for California public works projects or for California public improvements that exceed $1,000 in cost are entitled to receive wages at the prevailing rate—or “prevailing wage.” California public works projects include those that are federally funded.
The prevailing wage rate for any publicly funded construction project is based on the basic hourly rate that a majority of workers who are engaged in similar work within the nearest labor market area are receiving. Public works laborers must be paid based on what the prevailing wage for their specific job is determined to be.
Specific trades that California prevailing wage laws apply to include but are not limited to:
If a public works project in California is federally funded, the California state prevailing wage rate is used if that rate is higher, and if the project is controlled or carried out by a California awarding body.
New California Sexual Harassment and Discrimination Law
SB 292 amends the definition of harassment. The new law stipulates that sexually harassing conduct does not need to be motivated by sexual desire. Further, hostile treatment can amount to unlawful sexual harassment regardless of whether the treatment was motivated by any sexual desire.
The existing law states that employers may not take adverse employment action against a victim of domestic violence or sexual assault when they take time off from work to attend to related issues. The new law (SB 400) includes protections to victims of stalking.
New Discrimination Protection for Military and Veterans
AB 556 amends the discriminationFair Employment and Housing Act to add “military or veteran status” to the classes protected from employment discrimination. The amendment still allows employers to identify members of the military or veterans for purposes of awarding a “veteran’s preference as permitted by law,” but employers are advised to proceed with caution when inquiring about military service in job applications or hiring decisions.
New California Whistleblower Protections
Effective January 1, 2014, SB 496 expands whistleblower protections to include reports alleging a violation of a local rule or regulation. It also protects employees who report suspected illegal behavior:
(1) internally to “a person with authority over the employee” or to another employee with the authority to “investigate discover, or correct” the reported violation; or (2) externally to any “public body conducting an investigation, hearing, or inquiry.” Additionally, SB 496 declares unlawful any employer’s rule, regulation, or policy that prevents the disclosure of reasonably-believed violations of local (in addition to state and federal) laws, rules, or regulations.
Finally, SB 496 prohibits retaliation against an employee because the employer “believes the employee disclosed or may disclose information.”
The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)The Fair Labor Standards Act is a federal law regarding employee wages and hours worked, including overtime hours and wages. Under the FLSA, some workers can be exempted from overtime pay. However, those workers must fit the criteria the FLSA sets out for exemption. California laws also apply to employment subject to the FLSA. In cases where both the FLSA and California state law apply, the law setting the higher standards must be observed.
More information on how the Fair Labor Standards Act applies to overtime can be found here.
Family Medical Leave Act and California Family Rights ActThe Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is a federal act that requires covered employers to provide up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to eligible employees for the following reasons: birth and care of the employee's newborn child; care for a child after adoption or foster care placement; care for the employee's spouse, child or parent with a serious health condition; or for a serious health condition that affects the employee's ability to work.
Employees are eligible for FMLA coverage if they have worked for a covered employer for at least one year, for 1,250 hours over the previous 12 months (not necessarily consecutive months) and if a minimum of 50 employees are employed by the same employer within 75 miles.
Covered employers are those who employ more than 50 employees within 75 miles of the worksite and have at least 50 employees who work 20 or more work-weeks in the current calendar year or the previous calendar year. Public agencies are covered by the FMLA regardless of the number of employees.
The California Family Rights Act (CFRA) was established to ensure employees had leave rights for the birth of a child; adoption or fostering of a child; serious health conditions of the employee's child, parent or spouse; or for the employee's own serious health condition.
The CFRA covers employers who do business in California and have 50 or more part-time or full-time employees. Employees who are eligible for CFRA leave must be full-time or part-time in California, have worked more than 12 months with that employer, have worked at least 1,250 hours in the year before the first day of the leave, and work at a location in which there are at least 50 employees within a 75 mile radius of the employees work site.
Employees covered by the CFRA are entitled to up to 12 workweeks in a 12-month period and must be reinstated to the same or a comparable position upon their return.
Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA)The Occupational Safety and Health Act is a federal law enacted to ensure that employees work in an environment that is free from recognized hazards. It is part of the United States Code, Title 29, Chapter 15.
Federal laws also protect employees from sexual harassment and discrimination, including race, age, disability and pregnancy discrimination.
California employees who feel their rights have been violated may have the opportunity to bring their complaint before the courts.
California Labor Law Legal HelpIf you are employed in the State of California and feel that your employer or a co-worker has violated a state or federal employment law, you may qualify for damages or remedies that may be awarded in a possible class action or lawsuit. Please click the link below to submit your complaint to a lawyer for a free case evaluation.
Please click here for a free evaluation of your California Labor Law claim or call 1-888-580-0698
Last updated on May-7-15
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