What Are My Rights as an Employee in California?

Federal employment laws protect employees throughout the United States from unfair and illegal actions by employers. In addition to federal employment laws, California labor laws protect employee rights throughout the state. Employers who violate California employee rights can be subject to stiff penalties.

Is California a Right to Work State?

California employment law presumes that employees are employed at will. That means that an employee can quit a job without notice at any time. Also, an employer can terminate employment with or without cause or prior notice. 

There are some exceptions to this rule, such as:

  • Employees covered by a collective bargaining agreement or represented by unions
  • Most public sector employees
  • Employers who have done or said things that overcome the presumption of employment at will
  • Employees who have a written employment contract that defines the basis for terminating employment

It is essential to understand that employment at will does not give employers the right to violate California employment laws. Employers who violate employee rights can be held liable in court for wrongful termination

California Labor Laws 2020 – What Are My Rights?

You may be wondering what are my rights under California labor laws in 2020. If so, below are five important employee rights you hold as an employee in California:

The Right to Fair Wages and Equal Pay

California has some of the strictest wage and hour laws in the nation regarding employee compensation. Employees must be compensated for all hours they work. They must also receive periodic meal breaks and rest periods.

What is considered full time in California? California full time hours are generally 40 hours per week. Any hours over 40 hours are considered overtime and must be paid at an overtime rate. 

Also, employees are entitled to overtime wages for working over eight hours in a single day. Employees working over 12 hours in a single day are entitled to receive double-time pay.

As an employee, you are entitled to receive a fair wage for your work. That means you have the right to earn the same wage as other employees performing substantially the same type of work under similar working conditions. 

Rights Regarding Workplace Harassment and Discrimination

Employees are protected against workplace harassment and discrimination by federal and state laws. The EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) states that employers cannot discriminate against employees based on:

  • Color or race
  • Religion
  • National origin
  • Age (40 years and older)
  • Disability
  • Sex (including sexual orientation, pregnancy, or gender identity)
  • Genetic information 

Additionally, California’s discrimination laws include medical conditions, ancestry, marital status, and military/veteran status to the above protected classes. If your employer discriminates against you based on a protected class, you can file a complaint against your employer with the state or federal government. 

Employees may also have a civil claim against their employers for harassment or discrimination in the workplace. You could recover compensation for damages caused by workplace discrimination.

The Right to a Safe Work Environment

You have the right to a safe work environment free from hazardous or dangerous conditions that could harm or injure you. Some work environments can be inherently dangerous because of the type of work performed. However, employers have a duty to provide safety equipment and take measures to reduce the risk of injury to employees. 

For example, construction companies must provide employees who work on high-rises with safety harnesses and other fall-prevention equipment. Employers should also secure the area with barriers and warning signs to prevent accidents. 

The Right to Workers’ Compensation Benefits 

Most employers in California are required to carry workers’ compensation insurance. Workers’ compensation provides benefits when an employee is injured on the job or develops a work-related illness. 

Workers’ comp benefits may include:

  • Medical care and treatment for a job-related injury or illness
  • Temporary or permanent disability benefits if the employee cannot work
  • Death benefits for family members for a loved one’s work-related death

The workers’ compensation system is a no-fault system. A worker does not need to prove that an employer was negligent in causing the employee’s injury to receive benefits. 

However, an employee is prevented from suing an employer for a work injury in most cases. There are exceptions for third party claims and gross negligence or intentional wrongdoing by an employer. 

Rights Regarding Employer Retaliation 

Employers are prohibited from seeking retaliation against an employee for an employee exercising his or her legal rights. For example, an employer cannot fire an employee for filing a workers’ compensation claim or taking time off to vote. An employer cannot demote an employee who reports sexual harassment or files a whistleblower complaint.

Employer retaliation can take many forms. Threats, providing poor performance reviews, spreading lies about an employee, and adding to an employee’s workload unnecessarily are other examples of employer retaliation.

What Should You Do if Your Employee Rights Are Violated?

You can file a report of a labor law violation with the Department of Industrial Relations. Workplace discrimination complaints can be filed with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing. You may also file a complaint with the EEOC in some cases.

Because you may have several legal options when an employer violates your legal rights, you may want to consult with a California employment law attorney before taking any steps. An attorney reviews your case, explains your legal rights, and advises you of your options for seeking compensation for damages. An employment lawyer can help you take the steps that give you the best chance of receiving a positive outcome in your case.