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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 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 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.

california workerCalifornia and Federal Employment labor laws secure an employee's civil rights to overtime pay and benefits while protecting against workplace harassment and discrimination.

California labor law differs from federal labor law. 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. Employees who work more than 12 hours in one day qualify for overtime pay of two times the regular pay. However, some employees may be classified as exempt and not qualify for overtime pay.

Meal and Rest Breaks: 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 ten-hour workday, an employee is required to receive two 30-minute breaks.)

California Overtime

California 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 & Misclassification

Federal 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.

California Prevailing Wage & Underpaid Workers

California 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:

  • Carpenter
  • Electrician
  • Cement Mason
  • Drywall Installer
  • Teamster
  • Iron Worker
  • Painter
  • Laborer
  • Asbestos Worker
  • Tunnel Worker
  • Dredger
Because government contracts for public improvements are highly sought after, some bidders seek to submit lower bids by lowering wage rates. California prevailing wage laws require that all bidders on a public works contract must submit bids based on the same cost of labor--i.e., no bidder can use a lower wage rate in an attempt to 'win' a contract. Prevailing wage law ensures that work performed by the winning bidder on a public works contract is paid for according to the set prevailing wage rates. California prevailing wage includes not only the hourly rate of pay but also designated rates for overtime and holiday pay.

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.

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)

workplace discriminationThe 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 Act

The 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 Help

If 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.

Last updated on Apr-22-14


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