Law Offices of John Michael Jensen
Labor & Employment Law
California’s labor and employment laws are among the most comprehensive and protective in the United States. They cover a wide range of topics from minimum wage requirements to anti-discrimination laws, and they often provide greater protections than federal labor laws. Here’s an overview of some key areas of California labor and employment law:
- Wage and Hour Laws:
- Minimum Wage: California has a higher minimum wage than the federal standard, with annual increases until it reaches a set amount statewide.
- Overtime Pay: Non-exempt employees are entitled to overtime pay for hours worked over 8 in a day or 40 in a week, as well as for the first 8 hours on the seventh consecutive day of work in a workweek, and double time for hours worked over 12 in a day or over 8 on the seventh consecutive day of work.
- Meal and Rest Breaks: Employees are entitled to rest breaks and unpaid meal periods after a certain number of hours worked.
- Workplace Safety:
- Cal/OSHA: The California Occupational Safety and Health Act provides workers with protections related to workplace safety and health.
- Injury and Illness Prevention Program: Employers are required to have a written program to identify and prevent workplace hazards.
- Leave Entitlements:
- Paid Sick Leave: Employers are required to provide paid sick leave to most employees.
- Family Leave: California provides for more expansive family leave rights than the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), including the California Family Rights Act (CFRA) which offers protected leave for a wider variety of family care issues.
- Pregnancy and Parental Leave: There are specific laws protecting the rights of pregnant employees and new parents, including the right to take leave for childbirth and related conditions.
- Anti-Discrimination and Harassment:
- Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA): It is illegal for employers to discriminate against employees based on protected characteristics such as race, religion, sex, gender identity, national origin, disability, age, and more. FEHA also requires employers to take reasonable steps to prevent discrimination and harassment in the workplace.
- Workers’ Compensation:
- Employers are required to have workers’ compensation insurance to cover injuries or illnesses that occur as a result of work.
- Employee Classification:
- Laws govern the classification of workers as either employees or independent contractors, with significant implications for rights and benefits. California applies the “ABC test” to determine the status of workers in many situations.
- Privacy Rights:
- California recognizes a right to privacy, which can affect how employers monitor employees, conduct drug tests, or manage personal data.
- Layoffs and Closures:
- The California Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act requires employers to give a 60-day notice before mass layoffs, relocations, or plant closures.
- Immigrant Protections:
- State law provides certain protections for immigrant workers and limits the degree to which employers can engage in immigration enforcement.
- Equal Pay:
- The California Equal Pay Act requires employers to pay equal wages to employees of the opposite sex for work that is substantially similar when viewed as a composite of skill, effort, and responsibility.
- Retaliation Protections:
- Employees are protected from retaliation for exercising their rights under various labor and employment laws.
- Labor Relations:
- California law also covers the right to unionize and engage in collective bargaining.
Compliance with California labor and employment law is critical for employers, as violations can result in significant penalties and litigation. Because California laws are frequently updated and can vary by city and county, employers and employees should stay informed about the specific laws that apply to them. It’s also common for local ordinances to provide additional protections beyond state law, such as higher minimum wages or additional paid sick leave.
Violations of Labor & Employment Law
Common or Typical Violations
Violations of California’s labor and employment laws can be varied and numerous due to the comprehensive nature of the legal protections afforded to employees in the state. Here are some typical violations and how plaintiffs’ attorneys may address them:
- Wage and Hour Violations:
- Failure to Pay Minimum Wage: Employers must adhere to California’s minimum wage, which is higher than the federal minimum wage. Plaintiffs’ attorneys may seek back pay and additional penalties.
- Misclassification of Employees: Misclassifying employees as independent contractors to avoid providing benefits and paying overtime is a common issue. Attorneys may pursue reclassification and compensation for unpaid wages and benefits.
- Overtime Pay Violations: Not paying required overtime rates for hours worked over the standard 40-hour workweek or 8-hour workday can lead to claims for unpaid overtime compensation.
- Meal and Rest Break Violations: Failure to provide mandated breaks can result in penalties, with employees entitled to one hour of pay for each day a rest or meal period was not provided.
- Discrimination and Harassment:
- Workplace Discrimination: Discriminating against employees based on protected characteristics can result in lawsuits seeking compensatory damages, punitive damages, and injunctive relief to prevent further discrimination.
- Sexual Harassment: Unwanted sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature can lead to lawsuits. Attorneys often pursue both compensatory and punitive damages.
- Wrongful Termination:
- Retaliation: Terminating an employee for filing a workers’ compensation claim, complaining about harassment, or other protected activities can result in a claim for wrongful termination.
- Constructive Dismissal: Forcing an employee to resign by creating intolerable working conditions can be treated as wrongful termination.
- Safety Violations:
- Unsafe Working Conditions: Violations of California’s Occupational Safety and Health Act (Cal/OSHA) regulations can result in legal action and the seeking of injunctive relief to improve workplace safety.
- Leave Violations:
- Denial of Protected Leave: Denying leave under the California Family Rights Act (CFRA) or pregnancy disability leave can result in claims for reinstatement and compensation.
- Invasion of Privacy:
- Improper Employee Monitoring: Overreaching surveillance or searches without a legitimate business need can lead to claims for invasion of privacy.
- Labor Code Violations:
- Not Providing Accurate Wage Statements: Employers are required to provide accurate, itemized wage statements. Failure to do so can result in penalties for each pay period in which a violation occurred.
- Public Policy Violations:
- Termination for Refusal to Break the Law: If an employee is terminated for refusing to commit an illegal act, it can be grounds for a wrongful termination lawsuit.
How Plaintiffs’ Attorneys Address These Violations:
- Investigation: Attorneys will thoroughly investigate the claim, often consulting with labor law experts and reviewing company policies, pay records, and employee files.
- Demand Letters and Settlement Negotiations: Before filing a lawsuit, attorneys may send a demand letter outlining the alleged violations and potential remedies, and engage in settlement negotiations.
- Filing Claims: If a pre-litigation settlement is not reached, attorneys will file claims with appropriate agencies (like the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement for wage claims) or in court.
- Class Action Lawsuits: If the violations affect a group of employees, attorneys might file a class action lawsuit, seeking remedies for all affected workers.
- Litigation: Attorneys will represent the employee in court proceedings, including discovery, motions, trial, and any necessary appeals.
- Mediation and Arbitration: Some claims may be resolved through alternative dispute resolution methods, which are sometimes mandated by employment contracts.
- Remedies Sought: These may include back pay, front pay, compensatory damages for emotional distress, punitive damages, statutory penalties, attorneys’ fees, and costs of litigation.
California labor and employment law violations often result in significant financial liabilities for employers, not just from the primary damages but also due to the strong penalties and attorneys’ fees provisions that can accompany such claims.