What Are My Rights As An Employee In California?
All employees in California have certain rights and protections under federal and state laws. If an employer violates an employee’s rights, the employer could be held liable for damages sustained by the employee. In some cases, the employer may also face penalties for breaking California labor laws.
Employment law covers a wide variety of topics and employee rights. Let’s review some of the most important employee rights that you are entitled to in the workplace.
Important Rights That All California Employees Have Under the Law
A Safe Work Environment
Employees have the right to work in a safe environment. A workplace should be free from dangerous or hazardous conditions that could cause an employee injury or illness.
Some jobs are inherently dangerous or risky. Employees should only be exposed to dangers or hazards if it is part of their job, and there are still laws that protect those employees from negligence and intentional wrongdoing.
A Reasonable Expectation of Privacy
Your right to privacy extends to your personal items. You have the right to privacy in your personal phone conversation and a locker that is only accessible by you. However, employees are not guaranteed a right to privacy if they use an employer’s computer, equipment, or internet connection for personal reasons.
Fair Wages and Pay Equality
California has strict laws regarding an employee’s compensation, meal breaks, and rest breaks. Employees must be paid the state minimum wage with very few exceptions.
Most non-exempt employees in California must receive paid 10-minute rest breaks for every four hours worked in a day. They must also receive an unpaid 30-minute meal break for every five hours worked in a day.
Overtime compensation (1.5 times hourly wage) must be paid for an employee’s work that exceeds 40 hours a week or eight hours in a single day. Double time is paid for hours worked over 12 hours in a day.
Employees are entitled to earn the same rate as other employees who perform substantially similar work under similar working conditions. An employer cannot engage in wage discrimination based on sex, race, or other protected classes.
Employees may also be entitled to leave, including pregnancy and maternity leave, family leave, medical leave, and military leave. Depending on the type of leave, the time could be paid or unpaid.
Access to Workers’ Compensation Benefits
If an employee is injured on the job, the employee may file a workers’ compensation claim.
Benefits for a job-related illness or injury may include:
- Medical benefits
- Temporary and permanent disability income benefits
- Death benefits paid to family members
Workers are generally not entitled to sue employers for workplace injuries covered by workers’ compensation insurance. However, there are exceptions to the rule. An employee might have a civil claim against the employer for gross negligence or intentional acts.
Freedom From Discrimination and Harassment in the Workplace
Employees in California are protected against discrimination and harassment in the workplace.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) states that employers cannot discriminate based on the following characteristics:
- Sex (including pregnancy, gender identity, and sexual orientation)
- National origin
- Age (40 years and older)
- Genetic information
California’s discrimination laws add ancestry, veteran/military status, medical condition, and marital status to the above-protected classes. Employers who discriminate against employees could be liable for civil damage and face federal or state penalties for violating anti-discrimination laws.
If you need to know how to file a discrimination lawsuit, it is best to talk to an employment law attorney to learn the steps you must take before filing the lawsuit.
Freedom from Employer Retaliation
It is unlawful for an employer to retaliate against an employee for specific actions.
Employers are prohibited from retaliating against an employee for:
- Taking legal time away from work for family or medical leave or pregnancy leave
- Reporting illegal activity or wrongful acts (whistleblowing)
- Filing a workers’ compensation claim
- Reporting sexual harassment or discrimination
- Taking time off to vote or serve in the National Guard
- Refusing to follow instructions that result in illegal acts or discrimination against another person
- Filing a complaint with a federal or state agency regarding workplace conditions
Retaliation can take many forms. Firing an employee or demoting an employee are forms of retaliation. Verbally abusing an employee or harassing the employee are also forms of retaliation. Other forms of retaliation might include giving the person a poor job review, spreading false rumors, making threats, adding unnecessary job responsibilities, and placing the person in a much less desirable position.
No Wrongful Termination
Even though California is an “at will” state for employment, an employer cannot fire an employee for unlawful reasons. For example, an employer cannot terminate an employee based on a protected class or characteristic.
It is unlawful for employers to fire an employee for filing a workers’ comp claim, filing a whistleblower report, or other reasons that violate public policy. Employers who make it intolerable to work by creating a hostile work environment could be guilty of constructive discharge.
Suing for wrongful termination can result in compensation for being wrongfully fired. However, to file a wrongful termination lawsuit, you must have valid grounds for a lawsuit against an employer. Wrongful termination of at will employees can be difficult to prove.
Can you sue for wrongful termination? The first step is to contact an employment law attorney. Your lawyer will analyze the facts in your case to determine if you have a valid reason for suing for unlawful termination.
Can I Recover Damages if I Sue My Employer for Violating My Employee Rights?
Each type of employment law case is slightly different. The compensation for damages depends on the type of case being filed. For example, the compensation you might receive in a lawsuit regarding wage violations is might be different from the compensation you could receive for a sexual harassment lawsuit.
Potential damages in an employment lawsuit could include:
- Compensation for loss of income and benefits
- Reimbursement for attorneys’ fees and costs
- Compensation for emotional distress
- Medical bills for treatment of physical injuries and mental health treatments
- Reimbursement for out-of-pocket expenses related to the claim
An experienced California employment law attorney fights for maximum compensation for your damages. Our lawyers can provide more information about the damages you might be entitled to receive after they review your case during a free consultation.
Contact Our California Employment Law Attorneys for a Free Consultation
Do you want to know how to file a lawsuit against your employer? If so, we can help.
If your employer violates your rights or employment law, you have legal options for recovery of damages. Contact our San Diego office or call us at (619) 693-7727 to schedule a free consultation with an experienced San Diego employment lawyer to discuss your case.