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Given the breadth of employment law, your employer may be violating your rights without you being aware of it. The following will help ensure that you understand your rights in California so that you can protect them when the time comes.
Employment Rights in California – A Summary
To start, let’s get an overview of your rights as an employee in California. Every worker in the state is entitled to some core, essential rights, including:
- The right to work in a safe space that is free of conditions that can cause injury or illness
- The right to receive a fair wage for work performed
- The right to work in an environment that is free of discrimination or harassment
- The right to not be impacted by retaliation should that employee file a complaint
Some of these rights also extend to those who are applying for work positions in California. As an applicant, you have the right not to be discriminated against, first and foremost. This means that an employer cannot rule you out as a candidate based on race, origin, religion, gender, or age. An employer is also not allowed to run a credit or background check on an applicant without their permission.
With this overview in mind, let’s dial in on some specifics related to each of these rights.
Discrimination in the Workplace
You are protected from discrimination in the workplace in California by both state and federal laws. What are some ways in which you can experience discrimination in the workplace?
Discrimination Due to Race, Religion or Nationality
Any employer in California with 15 employees or more is held accountable under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act when it comes to these types of discrimination.
The EEOC, or Equal Employment Opportunity Commission defines discrimination in this way, providing further insight into just how discrimination can manifest:
- Subjecting an employee or job applicant to unfavorable treatment because they belong to a certain race
- Subjecting an employee or applicant to unfavorable treatment because their personal characteristics indicate a relation with a certain race (hair texture, skin color, or facial features)
- Subjecting an employee or applicant to unfavorable treatment because of the color of their skin
- Subjecting an employee or applicant to unfavorable treatment because of a close personal relationship they have with a person of a certain race, skin, color, nationality, or religion
As you can see, there are some surprising ways in which discrimination can impact California employees. Understanding these details are crucial to ensuring that your own rights are not being violated.
Discrimination Due to Sex or Gender
Oftentimes, California employees experience discrimination in the workplace due to their sex or their gender identity. Gender identity discrimination can involve discriminated based on transgender status or sexual orientation. All discrimination of this type is protected under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.
How can discrimination manifest in these cases? An individual might experience discrimination in hiring, termination, the types of jobs they are assigned to, training, and more. It is also important to note that California employees are protected under the Equal Pay Act and that workers of all sexes and genders should receive equal pay for equal work. Workers in California are also protected from sexual harassment in the workplace.
Discrimination Based on Age
Another category of discrimination from which you are protected as a California worker is discrimination based on age. While not talked about as often as sex or racial discrimination, many Californians experience discrimination of this type, missing out on work opportunities to younger candidates or employees. Employers are prohibited from firing older employers to hire younger ones, or even more affordable ones.
Discrimination Based on Disability
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) also protects Californians from discrimination based on disability. This means that not only are disabled employees entitled to employment for which they qualify, but also that an employer must make a work environment accessible to those with disabilities. These accommodations can also involve things such as modifying a work schedule or job duties.
When Employers Violate Wage and Hour Laws
Beyond discrimination, certain California workers are also protected by laws related to their wages. It is important to note that wage law applies only to non-exempt employees. Independent contractors, part-time employees or an exempt employee of another type are actually not protected by wage laws. Exempt employees can include administrative, professional or executive employees who spend more than half of their work hours working in a managerial capacity and earn a salary that is at least twice the state minimum wage for full-time work.
Minimum Wage in California
To understand how wage law applies to you, you need to have a clear understanding of the minimum wage in the state. As of January of 2022, any employee in California working for a company with 26 or more employees must receive an hourly wage of at least $15. Those working at a company with 25 or fewer employees must receive at least $14 an hour. This is where California excels as a haven for worker’s rights— this state minimum wage is double the hourly minimum established at the federal level. If you are not receiving this hourly wage in the state of California, no matter the federal wage standards, your employer may likely be violating your rights.
Overtime Pay Considerations
As a California employee, you are also entitled to overtime pay. Any work you do in excess of eight hours a day or 40 hours over one workweek must be paid at a rate of time and a half. Work done in excess of 12 hours a day or in excess of 8 hours on a seventh day in the workweek entities you to double time pay.
No matter what type of employment law violation you are experiencing, you have a right to advocate for yourself, report illegal activities and file claims. You are also protected against any retaliatory response your employer might take.
If your rights are being violated on the job or if you are terminated in retaliation:
- Retain a copy of your employment contract and review its details
- If you are terminated, ask to view your HR file and grounds for termination
- Do not let your employer force you to sign anything you don’t feel comfortable signing
Most importantly, contact an experienced California employment law attorney. The lawyers at Myers Law Group have the breadth of knowledge and experience needed to represent you in an employment law claim. Contact us right away to get started on your case and protect your rights as a California worker.
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