Workers' Rights in California

Workers’ Rights in California: What Employees Need to Know

Workers’ rights in California are typically more protective than federal workers’ rights are – and in many cases, they’re more protective than other states, as well.

But what rights do employees have in California, and how do they apply to you?

Workers’ Rights in California

Under federal and state laws, California employees have several rights. Here’s a quick breakdown of workers’ rights in California:

  • Fair pay
  • Freedom from discrimination and harassment
  • Freedom from retaliation and protections as whistleblowers
  • Freedom from wrongful termination
  • Paid leave, in some cases
  • Rest and meal breaks
  • Safe working conditions

Let’s take a closer look at each of these workers’ rights.

Related: California Labor Laws 101

Workers' Rights in California - LA Employment LawyersFair Pay

A fair hourly wage that doesn’t discriminate between genders, the right to receive overtime pay and the right to receive earned commissions in a timely manner – those are all part of workers’ rights in California.

Related: California’s Fair Pay Act: What does it mean?

Freedom From Discrimination and Harassment

Employers in California must take reasonable steps to ensure their workers aren’t victimized by harassment (sexual or non-sexual) and to prevent discrimination. You’re protected from discrimination in these categories:

Age Disability Medical conditions Race
AIDS/HIV Gender Military/veteran status Religion
Ancestry Genetic information National origin Sexual orientation
Color Marital status Pregnancy Political affiliation


Freedom From Retaliation and Protections as Whistleblowers

Californians have the right to be free from retaliation for reporting illegal business practices, discrimination or harassment. Employers can’t retaliate against whistleblowers.

Related: Whistleblowing examples

Workers' Rights in California - Laws on Employee RightsFreedom From Wrongful Termination

While most California workers are considered “at-will” employees, that doesn’t mean they can be wrongfully terminated. Your employer can fire you for no reason at all – but he or she can’t fire you for an illegal reason, like your age, medical conditions, religion or race.

Paid Leave, in Some Cases

Some people are eligible for paid leave. Employers aren’t required to give you holiday leave or vacation days, but they are required to cover you under the Family Medical Leave Act.

Related: FMLA myths most people believe

Rest and Meal Breaks

Workers are entitled to appropriate meal and rest breaks, as well as lactation accommodations. The number of meal or rest breaks covered by workers’ rights laws in California are based on the number of hours an employee works – but most people are entitled to them.

California Workers' Rights - Glendale Employment LawyersSafe Working Conditions

Your employer has to provide a reasonably safe workplace. Sure, some workplaces are more dangerous than others, like construction sites and chemical factories, but no matter where you work, your employer’s job is to mitigate risks to you and your coworkers by preventing or fixing unsafe working conditions.

Related: California employee rights handbook

What to Do if Your Employer Violates Your Workers’ Rights in California

While most employers do a great job at preserving employee rights across the state – even if it’s only because the laws force them to – there are still some employers that simply don’t care about workers.

If you believe your employer has violated your rights, you may want to talk to an attorney. Your attorney may suggest that you:

  • Talk to your employer
  • Document everything
  • Consider taking legal action

Here’s a closer look at each of these.

#1. Talk to your employer.

Sometimes simply talking to your employer can resolve the issues you’re experiencing. Remember, most companies don’t mean to violate workers’ rights – and nearly all companies want to stay out of court (and out of the news). Often, the violation of employee rights is simply a mistake.

#2. Document everything.

Even if your employer understands and corrects the problem, you’ll still want to have documentation. That way, if the issue arises again – or if you decide to pursue legal action because your employer did nothing to protect you or your rights – you’ll have backups.

#3. Consider taking legal action.

When your employer doesn’t take your complaints seriously, or if you’re demoted or fired for brining the problem to your employer’s attention, it’s time to talk to an attorney.

Do You Need to Talk to a Lawyer About Workers’ Rights in California?

If you need to talk to an attorney in Glendale or Los Angeles about workers’ rights in California, we can help. Call us at 818-230-8380 for a free case review. We’ll answer your questions and talk about possible outcomes of your case, as well as give you the legal advice you need.

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