California labor laws are designed to protect workers from bad business practices, and they’re pretty comprehensive. In many cases, California’s laws are more protective of workers than federal laws are, and courts here generally fall back on the laws that provide more protection when an issue arises.
But what do California labor laws cover? Here’s what you need to know.
California Labor Laws 101
California labor laws cover things like:
- Employee termination
- Family Medical Leave Act
- Independent contractors
- Meal and rest breaks
- Minimum wage
- Overtime pay
- Sexual harassment
The basics of each law is covered in the table below.
Wrongful dismissal of an employee is illegal in the state of California. An employer can’t fire you because of your:
- National origin
- Sexual orientation or gender expression
Employers also can’t fire you because you’re classified as a whistleblower or because you filed complaints about discrimination, either. It can’t let you go because you formed a union with other workers, reported sexual harassment, or took time off for a protected absence, either. Finally, your employer can’t fire you because you refused to commit an illegal act, like covering up theft or embezzlement.
You may be able to sue for wrongful termination.
Family Medical Leave Act
The Family Medical Leave Act, or FMLA, is a form of worker protection that gives some employees up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave each year. Employers aren’t allowed to violate the FMLA by firing you or using your leave against you.
Some of the basic protections under FMLA include:
- 12 workweeks of leave in a 12-month period for birth, adoptive and foster parents
- Leave to care for a parent with a serious health condition
- Leave for a serious health condition that makes a person unable to perform his or her job
- Leave to care for a spouse, son or daughter who has a serious health condition
The FMLA also has provisions for military service members.
There are some key differences between independent contractors and employees, and California labor laws address those differences. Employers don’t have to pay payroll taxes or overtime to independent contractors, or reimburse them for business expenses. Also, employers don’t have to cover independent contractors under workers’ compensation insurance, disability insurance, unemployment insurance or Social Security.
Meal and Rest Breaks
California labor law governs meal breaks and rest breaks for workers. Under the law, employees are allowed a 30-minute meal break after a 5-hour shift and a 10-minute rest break for a shift that lasts 3 hours and 30 minutes to 6 hours; for shifts that last between 6 and 10 hours, employees are entitled to two 10-minute rest breaks. These breaks are supposed to be paid.
Related: California Employee Rights Handbook
Minimum wage falls under California labor law. If your employer doesn’t pay you minimum wage, you may be able to sue for the amount that it owes you. California’s minimum wage recently increased, so it’s a good idea to make sure your employer is on-par with what the law requires.
Overtime is closely tied to minimum wage under California labor laws. In the state of California, non-exempt employees must be paid 1.5 times their regular rate for hours worked over 8 in a day or over 40 in a week. There are also rules for employers whose employees work more than 12 hours per day or more than 8 hours on the seventh consecutive day of work; those employers must pay twice the employees’ regular rate in those instances.
Sexual harassment is illegal, and it typically takes one of two forms: quid pro quo or hostile work environment harassment. If you have been subjected to sexual harassment in the workplace, you could be covered under our state’s labor laws – and you could be eligible to sue your employer for damages.
Do You Need to Talk to a Lawyer About California Labor Laws?
This isn’t a comprehensive list of all the facets of the workplace that our state’s labor laws cover. If you think your employer violated California labor laws, though, we may be able to help you. Call us at 818-659-8331 or use our toll-free number, 800-774-4163, for a free consultation. Tell us about your situation and we’ll help determine whether you have a case – and if you do, we’re here to help you get the compensation you deserve.