When it comes to employment law, California stands apart from many other states due to its robust protections for workers. While federal employment laws set the baseline for worker protections, state laws can and do expand on these rights. In this realm, California has established itself as a leader, with some of the most comprehensive worker protection laws in the country. This article will highlight some of the ways in which California’s employment laws differ from those in other states and an experienced employment lawyer can give you specific advice for your individual case.
Wage and Hour Laws
California law exceeds federal requirements in several key areas related to wages and working hours. The state minimum wage in California is higher than the federal minimum wage, and many cities in California have implemented their own local minimum wages that are even higher.
Furthermore, California law requires employers to provide meal and rest breaks, and it imposes stricter overtime requirements than federal law. In California, non-exempt employees are entitled to overtime pay (1.5 times the regular rate of pay) for any hours worked beyond 8 in a single workday and beyond 40 in a workweek. Additionally, any work beyond 12 hours in a workday is subject to double the regular rate of pay.
Discrimination and Harassment Laws
While the federal law prohibits discrimination based on race, color, national origin, sex, pregnancy, religion, age (if the employee is at least 40), and disability, California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) includes additional protected categories such as marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, AIDS/HIV status, medical condition, and military or veteran status.
California also requires employers with five or more employees to provide sexual harassment prevention training to all employees, not just supervisors. This is not a requirement under federal law or in many other states.
Family and Medical Leave
While the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) provides up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for eligible employees, California’s Family Rights Act (CFRA) expands these protections. As of 2021, the CFRA covers employers with five or more employees and allows eligible employees to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave not only for their own serious health condition or to care for a family member but also to bond with a new child.
California has adopted the strict “ABC” test for determining whether a worker is an employee or an independent contractor. This test presumes a worker is an employee unless the employer can prove (A) the worker is free from the employer’s control and direction, (B) the worker performs work outside the usual course of the employer’s business, and (C) the worker is customarily engaged in an independently established trade, occupation, or business. This makes it harder for California employers to classify workers as independent contractors compared to employers in other states.
At-Will Employment Exceptions
While California generally follows the “at-will” employment doctrine, there are more exceptions to this rule than in many other states. For instance, California prohibits termination or retaliation against an employee for a wide range of reasons, including for filing a workers’ compensation claim, for discussing or discussing wages, or for engaging in political activities or speech, among others.
In summary, California’s employment laws are often more comprehensive and offer greater worker protections than those of other states and federal law. These differences can have significant implications for both employers and employees. Therefore, it is crucial for California employers and workers to understand these laws to ensure their rights and obligations are met. As always, if you’re unsure about any aspect of California employment law, it’s a good idea to consult with a knowledgeable employment law attorney.