Understanding the Five Rights You Have as a California Worker

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Understanding the Five Rights You Have as a California Worker

Every worker in California is protected from abusive, injurious practices. It’s important, no matter if you work full-time or part-time, that you understand these five key rights you have as a California worker.

 Fair Wages That At the Very Least Meet Minimum Wage and Pay Applicable Overtime

As of January 1, 2022, employees in companies with 25 or fewer employees must get paid a minimum of $14 per hour. Businesses with more than 25 employees have to pay $15 per hour. More than two dozen cities and towns have minimum wage ordinances that are higher than this. Some of those cities and towns include:

  • Belmont – $16.20
  • Cupertino – $16.40
  • Emeryville – $17.13
  • Los Angeles – $16.04
  • Sunnyvale – $17.10
  • West Hollywood – $16.50 for large employees and $18.40 for hotel employees (starting July 1)

There are rules regarding when you should be paid:

  • If you quit your job, you must be paid within 72 hours.
  • Wages for current employees must be made semi-monthly on designated paydays. This could mean being paid on the 1st and 15th of each month, every other Monday, or every week on a Thursday. Your employer can’t say they’ll pay you when their clients pay them.
  • Union employees that have contracted payment terms in their bargaining agreement or salaried employees can be paid once a month as long as that payment is made on or before the 26th.

That’s what workers must be paid, but what about overtime? Workers who work more than eight hours but less than 12 hours get 1.5x for overtime pay. If a worker works more than 12 hours or more than eight hours on days they do not regularly work, they get 2x overtime pay. For workers who have alternative schedules, overtime may not be required until they’ve worked more than 10 hours in a shift.

One recent change to overtime laws impacts agricultural workers. If an agricultural worker works for a farm or company with more than 25 workers, overtime of 1.5x must be paid for hours exceeding 8.5 hours per day or more than 45 hours in one week.

Rest and Meal Breaks Offered at Appropriate Times

When you work more than five hours a day, you have to have one meal break of 30 minutes or longer. If you work a six-hour shift, a mutual agreement is needed to get out of this meal break requirement. Workers who work a shift longer than 10 hours get a second meal break. Terms set forth in union bargaining agreements may change this rule.

During a meal or rest break, you’re not on duty. You cannot be required to carry a pager or two-way radio during your breaks. Your employer can also not mandate that you save bathroom trips for your rest breaks. If you feel your rights to a rest or meal break were violated, make sure you keep the three-year statute of limitations in mind when it comes to filing a wage claim.

Breaks are required by almost every employer. Workers get a 10-minute rest period for every four hours worked. If a worker is on a 10-hour shift, they get a break in the first four hours, a break in the second four hours, and a third break in the remaining two hours.

The one exception to meal and rest periods is if the break would impact work operations, such as in a store where there is only one salesperson on duty. But, that employee must be paid a full hour for the lunch or dinner break that had to be skipped.

New moms are allowed reasonable breaks to express breast milk in a private break room. That room must have a sink, electrical outlet, table, and chair. It cannot be a room that’s used by others while the mom is pumping milk.

A Work Environment That is Healthy and Safe, Both Physically and Emotionally

A workplace needs to be safe. OSHA rules come into play. Workers cannot be subjected to unexpected dangerous work conditions. For example, roofers shouldn’t be up on roofs without safety harnesses that are inspected and free of flaws. Restaurant workers shouldn’t be subjected to working in a kitchen that’s infested with mice or rats.

The COVID pandemic brought new issues to light. If a co-worker has COVID and exposed co-workers to the virus, those potentially infected co-workers need to know.

Workplace harassment and discrimination are not acceptable. Employees must be given clear, easy-to-understand guides on anti-harassment and discrimination rules. Those guides must include information on how to report inappropriate workplace behavior.

Harassment and discrimination may cover more than you realize. If the behavior is unwelcome, it’s harassment. Suppose an employee frequently emails memes or jokes that worker feels are funny but another finds offensive due to it being related to sexuality, race, age, etc. If that worker won’t stop, even after being asked, it becomes harassment.

Discrimination and harassment often cover more than employees realize. Here are some examples of discrimination and harassment in the workplace that you may not realize qualify.

Your boss tells a female employee that her afro is not acceptable and that she needs to straighten her hair or be demoted to a job in a backroom. That’s a violation of the CROWN Act and is a clear case of discrimination.

A company regularly posts inspirational religious messages and content in employee newsletters. That can be offensive to people who are not religious.

A female employee is having a bad day, so her co-worker comments that she must be on her period. Gender-specific comments are not acceptable.

Your boss frequently hugs you. It seems innocent and doesn’t ever go farther, but it bothers you nonetheless. It’s completely acceptable to point out you’re uncomfortable and want it to stop.

Comments, actions, and behaviors that make you feel targeted due to your religion, sexuality, gender, age, physical abilities, mental illnesses, etc. are not allowed. You have the right to feel safe in your workplace, and that includes emotional safety. 

Benefits That Cover Injuries and Unemployment

Your employer has to offer benefits that cover time off if you’re injured in the workplace. Your employer needs to pay for any required surgeries, therapy sessions, or medical treatments. Workers’ compensation provides payments for the wages you’re missing during your time away to recover or heal. You cannot be denied workers’ compensation if you’re not a U.S. citizen.

As of 2015, workers get at least three days of paid sick leave each year. If you’re sick, you can use this sick leave and get paid for the time off.

Protection From Retaliation When Filing or Making Complaints

If you’ve filed a complaint with your HR department and are the victim of retaliation from your boss, co-workers, or other company officials, be aware that it’s illegal. You are protected from relation, but that protection isn’t always enough to prevent it from happening anyway.

If you believe you’re being treated unfairly or facing retaliation in the workplace or by co-workers, talk to your HR department to find out how to file a complaint. If you’re not taken seriously, reach out to an attorney that specializes in employment law.

Shegerian Conniff is an expert in workplace discrimination and harassment. Talk to us about your situation, and we’ll explain to you the next steps to take. If we take your case, you do not pay us upfront. Our employment law attorneys work on a contingent fee arrangement, meaning we take payout out of the money you’re awarded or receive in a settlement. Call to arrange a free consultation.

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