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An Overview of The California Labor & Employment Law

Updated: Oct 12

Everything you need to know about California Labor Law.


You may need an employment lawyer if you have a workplace dispute with your boss. While some problems can be settled through open communication, obtaining compensation or other forms of justice for workplace violations often necessitates a lawyer's assistance.


Even more so, if you were fired for a discriminatory reason, owe substantial sums in unpaid wages, or your workplace issue involves a complicated or confusing legal issue.

california employment law

Why Is It Important To Hire An Employment Attorney in California?


Our relationship with our employer is one of our most important. Employees often have incorrect or incomplete information when a dispute occurs at work. An Employment Attorney represents individuals in employment disputes and assists workers by advising them through their current employment situation or, more commonly, evaluating the individual's rights after they have been subjected to discrimination, demotion, termination, wrongful termination, retaliation, or unlawful harassment.


Employees may be able to file claims under a variety of state and federal regulations. Discrimination or harassment based on a protected status (for example, race, sex, age, national origin, or disability) or retaliation for raising concerns about discrimination or harassment are examples of unlawful employer actions. Employers may also be held liable if they violate the Family Medical Leave Act or fail to pay wages per state and federal laws governing overtime and minimum wages.


After raising concerns about their employers' illegal behaviour, employees who face retaliation may file a lawsuit under the many state and federal whistleblower protection laws.


Employees are increasingly being restricted in their ability to work elsewhere, either through the enforcement of non-compete agreements or through employer allegations of trade secret violations. In these cases, employees require competent and experienced legal counsel to protect their intellectual property and legally transition to a new employment relationship.


The California Employment Attorneys in this practice area often represent employees before administrative agencies such as the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Litigation is usually required to enforce the employee's rights and recover sufficient damages. Litigation in this area can be complicated and time-consuming.


It is a particular area of law, and having prior experience representing workers is essential. A California Employment Lawyer representing people in this dispute should be well-versed in the complexities of the different employment laws and available claims. It's also critical that the attorney understands the gravity of the situation financially and emotionally. Employees who seek out lawyers with this level of knowledge and experience will receive sound and effective representation in what could turn into a costly, delicate, and complex dispute.


What Can an California Employment Attorney Help Me With?


While Los Angeles Employment Lawyers tackle all sorts of cases related to California Labor Law and work environments, the most common of these are wage-related violations and wrongful terminations. What's your California right to work? Are your paychecks coming in late? Were you not paid for overtime? Were you fired for political beliefs unrelated to the work you do?


If it's neither of those, below are some other examples you might want to look into:

California Wage and Hour Laws


The majority of workers must be paid twice a month. Labor completed between the 1st and 15th of the month must be paid for between the 16th and 26th of the month on monthly paydays; labor completed between the 16th and the last day of the month must be paid for within the 1st and 10th of the following month.

If you haven't been getting your paychecks, or worse, your employer has skipped paydays, then you have a case.

Pay Stubs


Pay Stubs are essentially receipts. An honest breakdown of your monthly payment is proof of transparency, but it can also be used as evidence if your employer breaks wage laws.

The written statement should include the following:

  • Total earnings

  • Deductions

  • Total number of hours (if the payment is an hourly rate), and the total number of units produced (if paid per piece)

  • Net wage, including timestamps

  • The employee's full name, last four digits of their Social Security number, and/or employee identification

  • The employer's contact information, with complete name and address

Access to Your Payroll


Employees have the right to look through their payroll from the previous three years of employment. Records must be made immediately available to both current and former employees no later than 21 days after receiving a request. Whether the employee's purpose is for inspection or copying, restricting access is illegal.


Injury resulting from an employer's deliberate failure to keep and provide required statements and records may be entitled to recover an equivalent of the greater actual damages. In other cases, a penalty for the first pay period and another penalty for each subsequent pay period violation, plus costs and fair attorney fees.


For a private employer's failure to provide an itemized wage statement or maintain the requested records, the California Labor Code allows for fines of $250 per employee per violation in the first citation and $1000 per employee per violation in subsequent citations.


Reporting Time


Sometimes, an employee required to come to work is left to do either nothing or less than half of their daily tasks. When this happens, the employee still needs to be paid for half of his or her usual or scheduled work. At least 2 hours of work shall be paid, but it will not exceed 4 hours of their equivalent hourly rate.


Waiting Time Penalties


Earned but unpaid wages and unused vacation times are due even after the employee is fired. Compensation for missed food and rest periods are also payable and counted as earned wages.


Employees who voluntarily quit must be paid on their last day of work, given that they posted a notice 72 hours beforehand. If no prior notice of intent has been given, they must still be paid within 72 hours after their last day of work. If an individual is working in temporary services remains employed after an assignment is complete and is available for future assignments, the employee is not entitled to immediate payment.

Employers who willfully fail to pay due to a discharged or quitting employee have imposed a civil penalty by the Labor Commissioner (of not more than 30 days' pay).


Post-Termination Commissions and Bonuses


An employee's right to receive a commission should be unaffected by the termination of employment, voluntary or involuntary. If nothing else is left for the employee to personally do to fulfill his end of the commission, then they must be compensated.

On the other hand, employees are not entitled to a bonus. If they voluntarily quit before the bonus has been paid, they are not entitled to compensation after leaving. However, an employer cannot fire an employee to avoid honoring bonuses or other agreed profit shares.


Overtime


For any extra hours of work, non-exempt workers must be paid at a rate of no less than one and one-half times their normal rate of pay for work. The following are considered payable overtime: work after 8 hours in a day, 40 hours in a week, and work done during the first 8 hours on the seventh consecutive day of work. Work that extends to more than 12 hours a day or 8 hours on the seventh successive day of work in a week is payable for at least twice the employee's usual rate.


It's simpler to figure out an hourly employee's normal rate than a regular salaried worker. A full-time employee's weekly salary is divided by 40 to calculate the average rate of pay, no matter how many actual hours they put in. If paid on a piece-rate basis, the employee's average rate is calculated by getting the sum of the employee's piece-rate earnings and dividing the total by the number of workweek hours. For total hours worked over 40 in a workweek, the piece-rate employee must be paid an extra one-half of the normal rate.


An employee's duration under the control of his or her employer is counted as work hours, including the time an employee is permitted to work, with or without required tasks. Time spent preparing for and finishing work is compensated, but only if it is necessary for the employee's primary role or responsibility. Take, for example, jobs that require special clothing or protective gear, like surgeons. A trauma surgeon cannot perform their duties without particular clothing and equipment, so the time spent changing clothes at the start and end of the day would be counted as payable time.


Meal and Rest Periods


It is required to give employees in California a 10-minute rest period every four hours of work, preferably in between each four-hour interval. Rest periods are not included in the total number of hours worked. Employers cannot give or demand work during breaks, and they cannot waive or shorten them in contracts. If an employer fails to grant rest breaks, then an employee is entitled to one extra hour of pay at their usual rate of pay. Employers must also allow breastfeeding employees to see to their children.


Employers may not hire workers for more than 5 hours per day without at least 30 minutes of the meal period. The meal period may be waived or done away with by mutual agreement if a workday does not exceed a total number of six hours. Likewise, employers may not hire workers for more than 10 hours a day without a second meal period. Unless the total work hours is less than 12, the second meal period of at least 30 minutes may be waived, but not the first.


california employment lawyer

By the Industrial Welfare Commission, an employer cannot force an employee to work during mealtime. If an employer fails to provide the required meal period, the employee will be entitled to one extra hour of pay at their usual rate of compensation each time. Unless an employee is relieved of all duties during a 30-minute meal period, the meal period must be counted in hours worked.


Only when the job description itself prevents an official meal period does it count (and should be counted) in work hours. There also has to be an agreement between the employer and the worker beforehand. The written agreement must state that the employee has the right to cancel the agreement at any time after sending a written notice.


Minimum Wage


Hourly workers, piece-rate workers, commission workers, and salaried employees all have specified minimum wages under California law. Employers are not allowed to recover the excess amount paid to an employee at the minimum wage level from the week prior. Tipping is not allowed as a deduction from the minimum wage in California.


Deducting for meals and lodging provided to employees of a minimum wage is allowed by California law. It should be under a voluntary written agreement with the employee, with a maximum charge between breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Employers may deduct a certain amount per week for lodgings depending on the type of lodging (it depends if it's a one-occupant room, a shared room, or an apartment unit).

Exemptions


All Executive, administrative, and professional employees are exempt from nearly all Wage Orders, but few other employees actually meet these requirements. In particular:

  • Select tech-related occupations in the software industry. Mainly those engaged in intellectual or creative work that requires tact, inquiry, and informed discretion.

  • Outside salespeople( including select commissioned salespeople, experts, and select farm workers).

Wrongful Termination in Los Angeles


Employees fired on the grounds of a breach of employment contract--for either discriminatory reasons or for exercising certain legal rights--can file a claim for wrongful termination. Most workers are vulnerable to sudden terminations, with or without cause, because they work in at will employment in California. Fortunately, California laws have specified a list of illegal reasons for termination.


Contract-related Issues


Your employer must keep their end of the bargain. If your contract guarantees continued employment for a set period of time, firing you would breach said contract.