California employees are protected by state and federal laws in all stages of their employment, beginning from the time they apply through the time their employment ends. While federal laws and regulations set the minimum standards for employee rights, individual states may draft and enact their own employment and labor laws. California is considered one of the most employee-friendly states, adopting favorable laws that protect employees from unfair and unjust working terms and conditions.

Although most employment is "at-will" in California, employers cannot refuse to hire or decide to terminate an employee due to an unlawful reason. For example, it is unlawful for employers to subject job applicants or employees to unwelcome or biased comments or conduct because of a protected category, such as an applicant or employee’s race/national origin, sex/gender, pregnancy, sexual orientation, religion, age (over forty), a disability, marital status, or veteran status. Employers are also prohibited from discriminating or retaliating against employees who have asserted their rights under the law. California also has very strict wage and hour laws, ensuring employees timely receive just compensation for their labor.

If you or a loved one is experiencing trouble at the workplace, consult with an attorney in order to determine how to best proceed. Our attorneys have extensive experience in representing employees in a wide range of employment matters and would be happy to assist.

Employment Discrimination & Harassment

Employers are prohibited from treating an employee differently or subjecting them to unwelcome, offensive comments or conduct based on a protected category, such as the employee’s race/national origin, sex/gender, pregnancy, sexual orientation, religion, age (over forty), a disability, marital status , or military/veteran status.

Race/National Origin Discrimination & Harassment

It is unlawful to mistreat an employee or refuse to hire a job applicant because he/she is of a certain race or national origin, or because of characteristics associated with a particular race or national origin, such as hair color, skin color, or facial features.

Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment consists of unwelcome physical or verbal conduct of a sexual nature. There are generally two forms of sexual harassment under California law. The first is referred to as “quid pro quo harassment” and refers to demands for sexual favors in return for preferential treatment, such as a promotion or raise. The second form is known as a “hostile or abusive environment” and refers to sexually offensive comments and conduct carried out on a severe and/or pervasive basis.

Sex/Gender Discrimination & Harassment

It is unlawful to mistreat an employee or refuse to hire a job applicant due to their sex or gender. This category also includes discrimination because of gender identity, including transgender status. Sex/gender harassment or discrimination also includes being mistreated based on pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding, or medical conditions related to pregnancy.

Sexual Orientation/Gender Expression Discrimination & Harassment

Employers are prohibited from mistreating an employee or refusing to hire a job applicant based on their gender presentation, the gender with which they identify, or their actual/perceived sexual orientation. The law defines sexual orientation as heterosexuality, homosexuality, and bisexuality.

Religion Discrimination & Harassment

It is unlawful to mistreat an employee or refuse to hire a job applicant because of their religious beliefs. The law protects people who belong to organized religions, as well as those who have sincerely held religious, ethical or moral beliefs.

Age Discrimination & Harassment

It is unlawful to mistreat an employee or refuse to hire a job applicant because of his/her age. The Age Discrimination in Employment Act and other similar statutes only prohibit age discrimination against those 40 years of age or older. Employers often disguise bias by using euphemisms when referring to older employees, such as statements that an employee is "less energetic" and "less motivated."

Disability Discrimination & Harassment

It is unlawful to mistreat an applicant or employee because he/she is disabled or perceived to be disabled, requested medical accommodations in the workplace, or requested medical leave.

Pregnancy Discrimination & Harassment

California employers are prohibited from mistreating an employee or refusing to hire a job applicant due to pregnancy. California law also requires employers to allow employees suffering from a disability caused by pregnancy, childbirth, or other related medical conditions to take a leave of absence pursuant to its Pregnancy Disability Leave Law.

Marital Status Discrimination & Harassment

An employer may not mistreat an employee or refuse to hire a job applicant based on marital status, i.e., whether he or she is married, single, divorced, or widowed, or whether an employee is the head of a household.

Military/Veteran Status Discrimination & Harassment

It is unlawful to mistreat employees or refuse to hire job applicants who have a military or veteran status. The law defines “military or veteran status” as “a member or veteran of the United States Armed Forces, United States Armed Forces Reserve, the United States National Guard, and the California National Guard.”

Wrongful Termination

Employers cannot terminate employees based on any protected classes or categories (e.g., race/national origin, sex/gender, gender expression/gender identity, pregnancy, sexual orientation, disability, need for protected medical or family leave, religion, marital status, age, or military status) or due to an employee’s complaints about unlawful activity or unsafe practices at the workplace. Employers also cannot discharge an employee in order to avoid paying him or her the commissions, bonuses, vacation pay, and other amounts he or she had earned.

Retaliation

Employers are prohibited from retaliating against employees who have asserted their rights under the law, including complaints of harassment or discrimination in the workplace, an unsafe workplace, or an employer's violations of law. Asserting these rights, i.e. complaining or protesting, is a recognized form of "protected activity."

Family Medical Leave Act

The Family and Medical Leave Act ("FMLA") and its California counterpart, the California Family Rights Act, ("CFRA") entitle eligible employees of covered employers up to twelve weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave in a twelve month period for the employee's own serious health condition, to care for a seriously ill family member, for the birth of a child, the adoption of a child, or the placement of a child in foster care. Under some circumstances, employees may take FMLA/CFRA leave intermittently, i.e., in blocks of time or reducing their normal work schedule. An employee returning to work from an FMLA/CFRA leave is entitled to be reinstated to the same position of employment or to an equivalent position with equivalent benefits and pay.

Whistleblower Violations

California's whistleblower statute and similar statutes protect employees from being retaliated against after reporting that their employer violated the law or breached the public trust, even if doing so is part of their job. The employee only needs to have a “reasonable belief” the conduct at issue is unlawful.

Unsafe Workplace Violations

Employers must provide a safe and healthful working environment for all employees. Employers are also prohibited from discharging or discriminating against an employee for making a good-faith complaint about working conditions or practices the employee believes to be unsafe.

Wage & Hour Violations

California offers very strict wage and hour laws, ensuring employees timely receive just compensation for their labor. For example, employers must timely and fully compensate their employees with their earned overtime pay, provide them with timely and uninterrupted meal and/or rest periods, and reimburse them for any business-related costs they incurred in the direct discharge of their duties. Failure to do so can subject employers to significant penalties and civil remedies.

Overtime Violations

California law requires that employers timely and fully compensate their employees with their earned overtime pay, whether or not the overtime worked was preauthorized by the employer. Eight hours of labor is considered one day's work. Any labor beyond eight hours in a single workday or more than six days in a single workweek must be compensated at no less than:

1)One and one-half times the employee's regular rate of pay for all hours worked in excess of eight hours but less than twelve hours, and for the first eight hours worked on the seventh consecutive day of work in a workweek; and
2) Double the employee's regular rate of pay for all hours worked in excess of 12 hours in a single workday and for all hours worked in excess of eight hours on the seventh consecutive day of work in a workweek.

Meal & Rest Periods

Generally, California employers must provide employees with at least a thirty-minute meal period (unpaid) when they work more than six consecutive hours. Employees must be relieved of all duties during the entire thirty-minute meal period, which means being free to leave the employer’s premises. California employers must also provide non-exempt employees with a ten minute paid rest period every three and a half (3.5) hours worked.

Tip Pooling

California employers are prohibited from using tips employees earn as credit towards their hourly wage. Employers must pay employees at least the minimum wage without factoring in the amount they made from gratuities. Employers are also prohibited from sharing or keeping any portion of a gratuity a customer left for an employee.

Misclassification

Some employers misclassify employees as exempt in order to avoid paying them overtime wages. An employer, however, cannot avoid paying an employee overtime merely by giving an employee an administrative title. Rather, the employee must have certain authority in his or her role and certain job duties in order to be exempt from overtime pay and other requirements generally applicable to non-exempt employees.

Equal Pay Act

The Equal Pay Act requires that men and women in the same workplace be given equal pay for equal work. This statute has been newly amended and will soon also prohibit employers from compensating employees of one race, national origin, or ethnicity a lower wage.

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